Social determinants of health (SDOH) data allows healthcare organizations to improve health outcomes by tailoring care management to the holistic needs of the person and not just the diagnosis. The move to value-based care models makes it imperative for healthcare organizations to have access to complete patient information, which enables care of the individual beyond just the clinical condition.
Integrating SDOH insights into care plans allows healthcare organizations to recognize the need for, and enable access to, additional services or interventions for patients that can ultimately increase patient engagement and improve health outcomes. For example, programs that provide access to healthy food, reliable housing, or social support systems can drive better health outcomes.
As healthcare organizations have come to understand the value of social determinants of health data, there still remains a need for guidance on how to ethically operationalize it. For this reason, eHealth Initiative orchestrated the development of guiding principles as part of a cross-industry collaborative with over 50 public and private healthcare stakeholders such as America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), , Johnson & Johnson, LexisNexis® Risk Solutions and Mayo Clinic. The collaborative is dedicated to educating and guiding industry stakeholders and policy makers on the value of leveraging SDOH data for maximum good. The final recommendations published by eHi were for traditional and non-traditional healthcare entities, as well as social and governmental entities, to utilize social determinants of health insights in accordance with the following principles:
1. Care Coordination—Identify individuals with SDOH needs, coordinate and deliver more holistic care and connections to additional interventions or services
2. Recognize Risk Through SDOH Analytics—Identify risk through the use of analytic tools, in order to develop population health management interventions for individuals and communities
3. Map Community Resources and Identify Gaps—Assess individual SDOH needs against available community resources to identify gaps that address health and wellness
4. Conduct Service and Impact Assessments—Assess impact of SDOH interventions and services
5. Use SDOH as a Tool for Customizing Health Services and Interventions—Use SDOH as a guide for quality discussions with individuals, or their designated guardians, and caregivers to jointly decide which services and interventions are the best fit
In order to ensure that data is collected and used in a fair, unbiased, and scientific manner these guiding principles aim to prevent negative effects on key issues such access, equity and quality of healthcare. As the benefits of addressing Social Determinants of Health become further substantiated and data insights become more mainstream, it is important that as an industry we address ethical use and transparency.