State of the Science on Social Screening in Healthcare Settings

Emilia H. De Marchis
Erika Brown
Benjamín Aceves
Vishalli Loomba
Melanie Molina
Yuri Cartier
Holly Wing
Laura M. Gottlieb
June 2022


This report summarizes research on the prevalence of social screening in health care settings, validity of social screening tools, and patient and provider perspectives on social screening.


As the impacts of social factors on health are becoming more widely recognized, health care organizations are increasingly conducting social needs screenings. This report synthesizes research on social screenings in health care settings to help inform implementation in the U.S. health care system. The report summarizes resources focused on the prevalence of screening, psychometric and pragmatic properties of tools, patient, caregiver and provider perspectives on screening, and implementation research related to social screening.


While the research on social screening is growing, much of this research is not rigorous. There is particularly limited knowledge about the prevalence of social screening across health care settings and on the validity of comprehensive screening tools. There is more research on perspectives of screening – patients and caregivers generally report that social screening is acceptable, though some studies indicated patients were concerned about collection, storage, and sharing of social data. Health care teams believe that identifying patients’ social needs are within the scope of practice of health care and can improve patient-provider relationships.


This literature synthesis can inform health care system efforts to identify and address health-related social needs. However, more rigorous research and evaluations of social screenings in health care settings are needed to inform practice and advance health equity.

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