Social Determinants of Health (#SDOH)

In a recent chat that I think was hosted by HIMSS, they used the hashtag #SDOH. I’ll admit that the hashtag wasn’t familiar to me, so I was glad that they included a link to resources on the HIMSS Future Care website that defined #SDOH as Social Determinants of Health. Had you heard of this hashtag or term before?

I’d never heard of Social Determinants of Health before, but I’d certainly heard of some of the concepts. I think there is a lot to be said about how our social interactions can be used to determine our health. I think the real challenge with it is taking it from a conceptual idea and turn it into a science. Not to mention turning it into a science where technology could be applied.

What I just described is the perfect opportunity for an entrepreneur. Some of the best new companies take something really challenging and make it simple for the end user. I think that’s exactly what will happen with social determinants of health. With the plethora of social signals that are easily available and accessible now, a large mix of entrepreneurs will be able to work on this challenge. That’s really exciting for me.

The real question I have with social determinants of health is whether they’ll just be a consumer based application or whether the healthcare system will embrace these notions as well. My guess is that it will start as a consumer focused application and then as the science of SDOH matures, the rest of the healthcare system will start to accept and use it as well.

Have you seen applications of SDOH? Do you think social signals aren’t very valuable in determining someone’s health? Can they be leveraged reliably? Will we eventually see SDOH in EMR and EHR software?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • As far as I can tell, SDOH is what physicians have been referring to for years as “lifestyle choices”. The application of an acronym and the notion of turning it into a “science” is not unreasonable, but I question how useful it may be, other than for those who gain remuneration/employment/notoriety from specializing in the new “science”.

    Smoking, obesity, much of diabetes, drug use, excessive alcohol use, high-risk behavior, and a plethora of other descriptive terms all refer to or derive from a given patient’s tendency to engage in behaviors which can be detrimental to their health, and the literature is filled with the efforts of physicians, nutritionists, social workers, psychologists, counselors, etc etc to find ways to alter those tendencies. Having read the literature for roughly 30 years now, I’m not yet aware of anyone who has achieved a really solid, reliable breakthrough.

    While health care pros have been focused primarily on detrimental behaviors over the years, there has certainly also been much research and coverage of healthy behaviors. All this work, combined, constitutes the notion of “Lifestyle Choices” in the current treatment paradigms of all the disciplines mentioned. Perhaps there is a distinction between “lifestyle choices” and SDOH of which I’m not aware. Please enlighten me as needed.

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