It is estimated that up to 70% of variation in health outcomes and higher rates of hospitalizations are attributable to Social Determinants of Health (SDoH), which include factors such as housing, income, employment and education. Although SDoH screening during medical visits had been adopted by many health systems, medical education continues to be focused primarily on identification and treatment of disease at the individual level. Trainees are often under-equipped to address patients’ Health Related Social Needs (HRSN) and are led to believe that SDoH are beyond the scope of clinical practice. It is critical that emerging health care providers understand the impact of SDoH on their patients and have the tools necessary to identify and mitigate these challenges. Social workers (SW), are trained explicitly to address social needs in addition to health conditions, spanning health care delivery settings and the broader community. This pilot project is proposing to assess whether a virtual reality (VR) learning environment can increase medical, physician assistant, and social work students’ confidence in their ability to refer, advocate and ultimately mitigate HRSNs.
The project team will study whether creating a VR interdisciplinary learning environment in which students can collaboratively grapple with virtual scenarios will both enhance their understanding of SDoH and associated HRSNs, as well as promote their ability to engage in collaborative problem solving with diverse health care professionals.