Most Health Organizations Now Integrating SDOH Into Pop Health Management Programs

A new survey has found that healthcare organizations have begun to actively integrate social determinants of health into the population health management strategies.

The research, conducted by Change Healthcare and the HealthCare Executive Group, found that 80% of organizations had begun to track and use data on social determinants. This is a huge step up from just a few years ago, when discussions around SDOH and their use in population health management were more speculative than practical.

Perhaps the most interesting technique organizations are using is enlisting doctors in this effort. About 21% are training doctors to identify social determinants, a step which, in my opinion, is long overdue. Given how taxing this might be for physicians at first, it’s good to see that just a hair under 21% have also rolled out point-of-care checklists designed to help clinicians identify potential social determinants.

Other strategies respondents are using to leverage SDOH info include integrating community programs and resources into their population health management programs (42%), integrating medical data with financial, census and geographic data (34%), offering social assessment tools with health risk assessments (33%), incorporating social determinants into the clinical workflow (27 percent) and using third-party software, data and/or services (19%).

On a side note, the research data also suggests that another set of tools in PHM — mobile and digital health technologies — haven’t found their footing. When asked what’s limiting widespread consumer adoption of these tools, top reasons respondents cited included security and privacy concerns (49%), limited functionality (35%), a duplicative, redundant and confusing app environment (34%), problems with system interoperability (33%), a lack of healthcare literacy (33%) and poor user interface design (32%).

The latter data pointing to low mobile/digital health adoption came as a surprise to me. I like to think I can see through health IT industry hype, but maybe I’ve been fooled somehow. The data I’ve seen to date (some of it, admittedly, collected by vendors) has suggested for years that mobile healthcare adoption was climbing dramatically and that more recently, other digital health tools have begun to follow suit. I guess I missed something.

Given this lag, I’m glad to see that healthcare organizations are enlisting physicians, point-of-care checklists, clinical integration and other tactics to make use of SDOH data. We all know on a gut level that if the patient can’t get to the doctor, lacks social support or lives in a “food desert” where finding unprocessed foods and healthy produce may be quite difficult, preaching at them about their health concerns isn’t going to help. It’s high time we help physicians collect this information and find ways to close some of these gaps.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.