Oct 07 2022

Moving the Needle on SDOH Data

Healthcare organizations looking to act on social determinants of health data must standardize and improve reporting.

Across the country, agencies and organizations are taking action on data concerning the social determinants of health.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched its latest framework for the Healthy People 2030 initiative, and SDOH was one of its priorities. A data network project targeting heart health equity in New York City launched in September 2022 with collaborations between Microsoft AI for Health and city public health leaders.

SDOH encompasses economic status, neighborhood and housing, education quality, and community support — all nonmedical areas that can impact a person’s health. That’s why more healthcare organizations are interested in collecting this data.

“Even if you’re able to pool the data, the challenge is discerning actionable intelligence,” Catherine Robison, health innovation scientist with Oracle Health, tells HealthTech. “The question becomes, what action can I take that maximizes patient outcomes while controlling costs, and what’s within my ability to influence?”

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Healthcare organizations can use data and technology to create action that addresses SDOH in meaningful ways.

Standardizing SDOH data collection across an organization is a good first step. “Nearly everyone can do something with the data. Their use cases may be different, but the definitions need to be the same,” says Jeremy Racine, healthcare director for Tableau.

Next, the data needs to be analyzed in a way that addresses a clear need. “You need to determine the needle you want to move and then work backwards — figure out the pathway and the types of data you might need,” says Andrea Green, director of healthcare strategy for SDOH at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

Another useful step is to intentionally present findings to the right stakeholders, from the primary care providers who provide whole-person care to business and finance leaders making organizational date-driven decisions.

“Data needs to be of sufficient depth to enable statistical validation, which leads to it being visualized in ways that stakeholders outside health — such as state or national health departments, governing bodies and the public themselves — can understand,” Robinson says.

More patients are expecting their doctors to ask them about SDOH, especially younger patients. About 81 percent of young people age 14 to 24 said their doctors should ask them about SDOH, according to research from the University of Michigan.

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