Overreliance on geographic or population averages to quantify and measure social determinants of health (SDOH) can send healthcare organizations down a costly and inefficient path when it comes to designing interventions to improve outcomes and reduce costs. Because these averages tend to mask the discrete patient experiences, their use can result in programs that fail to fully address the barriers representing the greatest potential for improving health outcomes — and healthcare organizations’ returns on investment.
A better approach is to first understand the unique fingerprint of risk within a defined patient population. This knowledge enables identification of optimal intervention opportunities and estimation of those efforts that will produce the greatest return.
This is the approach that the Colorado Hospital Association took when it sought to identify strategies that would help its members reduce costs by addressing emergency department (ED) super-utilization and readmission rates. The resulting analysis identified a strong correlation between these areas and SDOH.