Easy-to-complete tool for screening patients’ social needs

November 29, 2023

In 2012, the Upstream Lab collaborated with hospitals and local public health organizations to develop the SPARK (Screening for Poverty And Related social determinants to improve Knowledge of and links to resources) Tool. A study published in BMC Primary Care focused on revising the tool, making it easier to understand, inclusive, and informative about the significance of collecting social determinants of health data in healthcare settings.

Accurate social determinants data is crucial for identifying opportunities to improve health outcomes, recognizing patterns of inequity, and evaluating the impact of interventions. The SPARK Tool was collaboratively developed by researchers, healthcare providers, and patient partners to capture sociodemographic and social needs data.

The study recruited 195 participants from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador to join the cognitive interviews. The study team categorized participant comments and modified the SPARK tool based on feedback. Researchers, patient partners, and sociodemographic data experts reviewed the tool prior to publication.

Through these revisions, researchers believe that patients will better understand the tool’s purpose, be more receptive to it, and be more inclined to complete it.

The SPARK Tool is currently undergoing further validation through psychometric testing, including concurrent validity by comparing it against other standardized tools. Additionally, an ongoing study is implementing the SPARK Tool in five clinics across Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador to assess its feasibility and acceptability in active primary care settings.

Screening for poverty and related social determinants to improve knowledge of and links to resources (SPARK): development and cognitive testing of a tool for primary care was published in BMC Primary Care on November 25, 2023.

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