It has been clear for years that social determinants of health (SDOH) – factors such as education, economic and housing stability, community support, and access to transportation – have a disproportionate impact on health outcomes. Research shows that SDOH accounts for up to 80% of health outcomes, while medical care – which costs the U.S. nearly $4 trillion annually – accounts for the balance.
What has been far less clear is how providers and payers can fully harness SDOH data to proactively manage the health of patients and members. Technological and cultural barriers have made it difficult for disparate parties such as hospitals, state agencies, mental health services, payers, law enforcement, community support organizations, and emergency services to share SDOH data in a way that would enable better coordination of care on an individual and community basis.
It is no coincidence that the intensifying interest in SDOH over the past five years has paralleled the growing interest among providers and payers in value-based care (VBC) models. The ultimate aim of VBC is to improve patient outcomes while lowering healthcare costs. Understanding and accounting for the impact of SDOH are keys.