Social Needs Resource Connections: A Systematic Review of Barriers, Facilitators, and Evaluation

  • Anna Louise Steeves-Reece
    Address correspondence to: Anna Louise Steeves-Reece, MPH, MA, Oregon Health & Science University, Mail Code: VPT, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland OR 97239.
    Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health, Portland, Oregon

    Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
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  • Annette Marie Totten
    Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health, Portland, Oregon

    Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon

    Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon

    Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
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  • Katherine DuBose Broadwell
    Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
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  • Dawn Michele Richardson
    Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health, Portland, Oregon
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  • Christina Nicolaidis
    School of Social Work, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon

    Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
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  • Melinda Marie Davis
    Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health, Portland, Oregon

    Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon

    Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
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Published:January 22, 2022DOI:


      Healthcare organizations increasingly are screening patients for social needs (e.g., food, housing) and referring them to community resources. This systematic mixed studies review assesses how studies evaluate social needs resource connections and identifies patient- and caregiver-reported factors that may inhibit or facilitate resource connections.


      Investigators searched PubMed and CINAHL for articles published from October 2015 to December 2020 and used dual review to determine inclusion based on a priori selection criteria. Data related to study design, setting, population of interest, intervention, and outcomes were abstracted. Articles’ quality was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. Data analysis was conducted in 2021.


      The search identified 34 articles from 32 studies. The authors created a taxonomy of quantitative resource connection measures with 4 categories: whether participants made contact with resources, received resources, had their social needs addressed, or rated some aspect of their experience with resources. Barriers to resource connections were inadequacy, irrelevancy, or restrictiveness; inaccessibility; fears surrounding stigma or discrimination; and factors related to staff training and resource information sharing. Facilitators were referrals’ relevancy, the degree of support and simplicity embedded within the interventions, and interventions being comprehensive and inclusive.


      This synthesis of barriers and facilitators indicates areas where healthcare organizations may have agency to improve the efficacy of social needs screening and referral interventions. The authors also recommend that resource connection measures be explicitly defined and focus on whether participants received new resources and whether their social needs were addressed.
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