Screening for Social Determinants of Health in Hospitalized Children


Outpatient screening for social determinants of health (SDH) improves patient access to resources. However, no studies have examined if and how inpatient pediatric providers perform SDH screening. We aimed to identify inpatient pediatric provider screening practices for SDH, barriers to screening, and the acceptability of screening for hospitalized patients.


We conducted a multicenter descriptive study at 4 children’s hospitals surveying inpatient hospitalists and nurses on the general wards about their SDH screening practices. A survey instrument was developed on the basis of literature pertaining to SDH, content expert review, cognitive interviews, and survey piloting. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression analyses are reported.


Results from 146 hospitalists and 227 nurses were analyzed (58% and 26% response rate, respectively). Twenty-nine percent of hospitalists and 41% of nurses reported screening for ≥1 SDH frequently or with every hospitalized patient. Only 26% of hospitalists reported consistently communicating SDH needs with primary care providers. Most respondents (97% of hospitalists and 65% of nurses) reported they do not use a specific screening tool, and only 34% of hospitalists and 32% of nurses reported feeling competent screening for SDH. Lack of time, resources, and a standardized inpatient screening tool were reported as barriers to screening.


Hospitalization provides an opportunity for SDH screening and connecting patients to resources; however, a minority of pediatric providers currently report screening. Professional development activities training inpatient providers in SDH screening, using a screening instrument, and communicating identified needs to primary care providers may improve the effectiveness of SDH screening in the hospital.

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