Why isn’t there more talk about SDoH?

June 28, 2018
Janette Wider,

As many of you likely saw in our daily e-newsletter and/or on our website, HMT is now partnering with Endeavor Healthcare Media, a subsidiary of Endeavor Business Media, LLC. The entire HMT team has joined the Endeavor team, based out of Nashville, TN, along with the publication teams from NP Communications, LLC.

Now, on to the July/August 2018 issue! I had the opportunity to feature a new topic this month that I’ve been looking to cover for a while: The Social Determinants of Health (SDoH). It is sort of a no-brainer that those who are less financially fortunate (or perhaps even homeless) have a greater health inequality from those who are well off, but how do we address these problems? How do you begin talking to patients about their socioeconomic conditions? Paul Isabelli, Vice President & GM, Population Health of Caradigm contributed an article this month on just that. Even the title is fitting: “Are you considering the other 50% of your patient’s health?”

Isabelli says, “Organizations can either offer patient assessment questionnaires or implement digital solutions with SDoH analytics. There are a handful of patient assessment options, such as the Accountable Health Communities Health-Related Social Needs Screening Tool from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Protocol for Responding to and Assessing Patients’ Assets, Risk and Experiences from the National Association of Community Health Centers. While these assessments ask questions that aim to understand the socioeconomic conditions of the patient, it is important to consider that the patient might not have a full appreciation of their current condition as it relates to norms, which may impact how accurately they fill out the questionnaire.”

I know that patients withhold information from their doctors. This was one of my concerns about telehealth visits—something can be overlooked or intentionally withheld via video that normally wouldn’t be in an in-person appointment (ex. a suspicious-looking mole, or a rash or some kind). So what can be done?

Isabelli says, “As patient information is run against data from thousands of contributing indicators, healthcare providers can gain insights into their entire patient population, leveraging well-defined algorithms that are free of any biases introduced by survey data. Stressor scores inform providers about at-risk patients in their population, allowing the care team to take preventive action, resulting in better health outcomes.”

By incorporating these factors into a health organization’s practice, providers can target and monitor those who are at risk for readmission—and therefore make a difference in the patient’s life. Not only will the patient benefit, but the practice will as well. If SDoH factors are taken into consideration, practices may see less missed appointments for example, therefore less lost revenue.

One final point I’d like to touch on that Isabelli made was the improvements that can be made once the healthcare organization starts leveraging SDoH data. He said, “Many organizations are reaching out to the community to meet patients where they are: Providing mobile clinics, mobile labs, mobile pharmacies and guidance on housing services.”

It’s my thought that if organizations begin taking SDoH into account, we’d have a healthier, and therefore happier, population. It’s nice to think that if a patient couldn’t get to the lab for blood work, there may be a mobile one just a few blocks away they could walk to. And they wouldn’t have to figure out this information on their own; a number of people on their care team could direct them to the most convenient location.

As always, thanks for reading. I welcome your feedback at [email protected].