The Role of Technology in Tracking Social Determinants of Health to Improve Outcomes

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization, Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are the factors divorced from medical care, yet significantly impact health outcomes. Research indicates that a mere 16% of health outcomes are influenced only by medical factors, while a substantial 84% of health outcomes are predominantly shaped by non-medical factors. Medical care also accounted for only 10-15% of preventable mortalities in the US, with the rest heavily guided by SDOH. As organizations look to expand their reach into areas of SDOH such as social services, housing and food security, all aspects must be considered to take a more holistic view of patients as well as populations. 

Social determinants of health

The factors that heavily influence SDOH are divided into five main categories: 

  • Economic stability
  • Education access and quality
  • Healthcare access and quality
  • Neighborhood and built environment
  • Social and community context

The modern age has prompted a synchronous alliance between technology and healthcare. Almost every sector in healthcare is forming successful coalitions with technological advancements to improve the social determinants that influence health outcomes so understanding, planning and implementing appropriate technology is critical to the success of healthcare organizations moving forward. 

 

Addressing the Challenges and Complexities of SDOHSocial determinants of health EHR

Given that SDOH by nature is a combination of focus areas as highlighted above, information often is provided by a variety of subjective and objective sources from different healthcare organizations, housing providers, case managers and others. To effectively engage in SDOH will require strong data capture as well as the ability to integrate and evaluate this information on an individual patient level as well as the communities they serve as a whole. 

Technology for Tracking Social Determinants of Health

Since SDOH has been recognized as playing a pivotal role in addressing healthcare disparities and the general well-being of the population, grantors, managed care organizations and payors in general represent funding sources for operational and technology related enhancements.  Below are four applications of technology which can help trace the pathways of SDOH in various capacities

Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

EHRs are exceptional tools for deriving SDOH-driven data since they are the core platform of data aggregation in healthcare organizations. Although they’re primarily used for clinical purposes, as mental health and behavioral health become more prevalent there is the ability to continually expand what information is being captured through clinical notes, various screenings and consulting with subspecialists. 

Wearable TechnologySDOH wearable technology

The body serves as a consistent and comprehensive source of information on the ongoing well being of an individual in terms of health. Wearable technology refers to watches, wristbands, eyewear or even clothing that provide access to physical assessment data. These devices contain analytics-based or AI-based tools, which healthcare organizations can successfully leverage to influence health outcomes. Data derived from these wearable items can help organizations conduct additional monitoring to discover more about SDOH.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

GIS is a tool designed to visualize and map geographic data. When healthcare organizations pair with SDOH data they are able to get a better visual to understand someone’s access to key resources such as housing, food, transportation and healthcare. When used effectively it assists with both population health management and care or social service coordination. 

Remote Patient MonitoringSDOH remote monitoring

On an individual level there is an increase in the market of purpose built tools to monitor patients outside the four walls of clinics, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. These include anything from basic vitals capture to blood sugar monitoring for diabetics and even breathing apparatuses for those with pulmonary issues. This allows a more consistent data stream which allows clinical decision making to be more real time and data driven.  

Information Gathering and Data Analytics

The collection of medical records, electronic documents, unstructured emails, social and demographic data, and environmental factors can help reveal traceable patterns and trends that have a direct impact on SDOH for individuals and populations. This information comes from a variety of sources which need to be considered relative to data integration, visualization and automation. This helps get the right information at the right time to the right people to truly impact SDOH and continue to increase funding to provide a greater impact and expand organization missions. 

Contact Hartman to Learn More About How Technology Can Fuel Your SDOH Strategy

At Hartman Executive Advisors, we are experts in aligning business goals with technology strategy. Contact us today to start a conversation around your SDOH strategy and plans for the future. 

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