Community Vital Signs: Taking the Pulse of the Community While Caring for Patients

Lauren S. Hughes, Robert L. Phillips, Jennifer E. DeVoe, Andrew W. Bazemore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


In 2014 both the Institute of Medicine and the National Quality Forum recommended the inclusion of social determinants of health data in electronic health records (EHRs). Both entities primarily focus on collecting socioeconomic and health behavior data directly from individual patients. The burden of reliably, accurately, and consistently collecting such information is substantial, and it may take several years before a primary care team has actionable data available in its EHR. A more reliable and less burdensome approach to integrating clinical and social determinant data exists and is technologically feasible now. Community vital signs aggregated community-level information about the neighborhoods in which our patients live, learn, work, and play convey contextual social deprivation and associated chronic disease risks based on where patients live. Given widespread access to "big data" and geospatial technologies, community vital signs can be created by linking aggregated population health data with patient addresses in EHRs. These linked data, once imported into EHRs, are a readily available resource to help primary care practices understand the context in which their patients reside and achieve important health goals at the patient, population, and policy levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-422
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Population Characteristics
  • Public Health
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Determinants of Health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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