The Three Challenges with Social Determinants of Health

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triple aim

Michael Beeker

Director of Business Development & HIPAA Privacy and Security Officer Bellrock Intelligence

Healthcare executives continue to focus on the “Triple Aim” of healthcare: improving patient care experience (including quality and satisfaction); health outcomes and value (results compared to costs).  Every initiative must impact these criteria. For a long time, everyone knew that social determinants of health were essential to address the Triple Aim. However, many still have no idea where even to start.

Knowing that 1 in 3 deaths are a result of unmet social needs, this can no longer be ignored.

So, what are social determinants, how do you get this information, and who is responsible for addressing the social factors in the care setting? Over the past few years, these questions have started to be answered. Nevertheless, many healthcare organizations don’t know where to begin.

Challenge #1 – Getting Everyone to Agree on What Social Determinants of Health Are

Social determinants of health are factors like where we live, housing, financial well-being, social isolation, access to quality foods, transportation, and other people-centric factors that play a huge part in our health.

Today, it’s believed social determinants significantly impact our health. With the shift to value-based care and risk-sharing contracts, addressing these challenges is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have if you are to survive.

Challenge #2 – Figuring Out How to Get Social Determinants of Health Information

Social determinant information for each member/patient is readily available from trusted data vendors, public records, health risk assessments, governmental websites, EHR data, and patient questionnaires. Moreover, social determinant data can be acquired at both the individual level and at a local population level. While the individual level data provides insights into  specific attributes of the patient, the aggregated local population level data allows you to understand their community as a whole.

In both cases, it is important to use data that is correlated to health outcomes, as not all facts about an individual are social determinants. Both the individual data and the localized data are key to understanding the patients.  

Challenge #3 – Agreeing on Who Is Responsible for Addressing Unmet Social Needs

Probably the biggest challenge is reaching industry agreement on what to do about unmet social needs. More importantly, who is responsible for addressing them? For a long time, the medical community disagreed on who was responsible.

Today, both payers and providers are stepping up to address unmet social needs that create barriers to patients realizing the best possible outcome from their care plans. Additionally, payers and providers alike acknowledge that addressing unmet social needs results in better care experience, increased value and improved health outcomes.  

Addressing Social Determinants Concerns

For any successful social determinant initiative, you must be able to address the three concerns together. Furthermore, everyone must understand what they are, how to get and understand the information, and most importantly, how to address the unmet social needs. Partnerships with medical professionals and community/social service companies are going to be critical to meet all three. Our medical community will not be able to do it all themselves.

Read more about how Bellrock and LexisNexis Risk Solutions Health Care are using robust data sources to help payers and providers operationalize social determinants data.

About Michael Beeker

Known for his ability to build and manage high-performance teams, Michael Beeker is an accomplished financial services executive with over a decade of experience in the industry. His extensive knowledge of management processes, client account service, loss mitigation, compliance/audit and staff development are invaluable to Bellrock’s operational initiatives as it focuses on the transformation of healthcare decision-making.

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