Four principles with 17 pragmatic steps build on over a decade of research and action by The Physicians Foundation

The Physicians Foundation today released Improving America’s Health Care System: Recognize the Realities of Patients’ Lives and Invest in Addressing Social Drivers of Health, which outlines specific, practical recommendations that are needed to address social drivers of health (SDOH) that impact physicians and patients across the country. SDOH recognize that the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age have a major influence on individuals’ health and the cost of health care in America.

The recommendations detail four key principles to address how we pay for and deliver care to improve health, while reducing costs and easing administrative burdens on physicians. These key principles are:

  1. Address SDOH in combating the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Integrate SDOH into payment policies for physicians
  3. Create new standards for SDOH quality, utilization and outcome measurement
  4. Make SDOH central to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center’s (CMMI) and states’ innovation agendas

The 17 specific recommendations are designed to impact at least one of the above principles, with one recommendation cross-cutting all principles: “Consistent with CMS’s ‘meaningful measures’ initiative, for every SDOH measure adopted, retire three+ other process and/or efficiency measures to re-balance the national measure set to align with what matters to patients and reduce physician burden and burnout.”

“Physicians have long experienced the impact of social drivers of health on patient health, care outcomes, costs, physician burden and the physician-patient relationship,” said Gary Price, MD, president of The Physicians Foundation. “In fact, in our 2020 Survey of America’s Physicians, 73% of physicians indicated that SDOH, such as access to healthy food and safe housing, will drive demand of health care services in 2021.”

Physicians know addressing SDOH, such as socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment, nutrition/food security, access to health care and social support networks, will require comprehensive coordination among individual physicians, medical societies, health systems, social services systems and policymakers. These recommendations outline specific actions needed for Medicare, Medicaid and the CMMI to support all stakeholders in addressing these social factors.

“Our health care system is increasingly recognizing that we cannot improve health outcomes or reduce health care costs without addressing social drivers of health,” continued Gary Price, MD, president of The Physicians Foundation. “The COVID-19 pandemic has truly highlighted how these social-related health factors can have vast impacts on different communities across the country. It is of utmost importance that we continue creating awareness around how social drivers of health impact our health care system and advocate for these important recommendations to improve health outcomes for all people.”

For more information on The Physicians Foundation’s work addressing SDOH, visit

About The Physicians Foundation

The Physicians Foundation is a nonprofit seeking to advance the work of practicing physicians and help them facilitate the delivery of high-quality health care to patients. As the U.S. health care continues to evolve, The Physicians Foundation is steadfast in strengthening the physician-patient relationship, supporting medical practices’ sustainability and helping physicians navigate the changing health care system. The Physicians Foundation pursues its mission through research, education and innovative grant making that improves physician wellbeing, strengthens physician leadership, addresses social drivers of health and lifts physician perspectives. For more information, visit