Social Determinants of Health Entering the Spotlight

The emergence of Social Determinants of Health businesses across the US, which preceded COVID-19, has continued to accelerate throughout the global crisis. The pandemic has demanded a heavy focus on population health. The result of this demand is a potential increase in the validation and adoption of Social Determinants of Health delivery models across the US.

Social Determinants of Health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, and are shaped by the distribution of wealth, power and resources. These factors have proven to be primarily responsible for health inequities found within a population.

Today’s headlines have highlighted the Social Determinants of Health realities. People of certain socio-economic levels, ethnic backgrounds and those living in certain types of housing, have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

By deploying strategies focused on Social Determinants of Health, organizations – such as payers, providers, and value based care entities – can better evaluate the complex data surrounding health outcomes and improve healthcare delivery models during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

The following results are critical drivers moving Social Determinants of Health further into the spotlight:

Whole Person Care

Whole Person Care addresses a range of biological, behavioral and social factors that influence overall health. Unlike traditional care models, which focus solely on biological factors, this model treats physical symptoms and solves for underlying social factors. By collecting data associated with social factors, providers can improve care quality, increase engagement of vulnerable populations, and reduce overall spend.

Population health data collected during the COVID-19 crisis has further amplified the need for Whole Person Care and consideration of social factors in care. For example, health trends such as isolation and loneliness, which can lead to heart disease, substance abuse, and high cholesterol have increased with social distancing orders. Results like this emphasize the importance of social factors on physical health. Responding to all factors will be beneficial during and after the crisis.

Cost Containment 

Containing healthcare spend is a critical focus of payers, providers, employers, and consumers alike. Transitions to accountable care organizations, self-funded insurance plans, and improved healthcare technology aim to reduce overall spend, while providing high-quality care. By combining these approaches with Social Determinants of Health data, healthcare spend can be further reduced through declines in hospital readmissions and increases in patient engagement.

The tremendous financial burden on the healthcare system due to the pandemic is likely to leave a lasting impact. Therefore, containing cost is critical to the future financial stability of healthcare businesses.  By emphasizing preventative care and focusing on social factors across all delivery models, unnecessary spend can be reduced and positive financial results can occur.

Data Analysis for Improved Outcomes

Social Determinants of Health relies on analytic and technology platforms to predict population health trends, identify vulnerable populations, and drive improved outcomes. Platforms like electronic health records (EHRs) facilitate sharing of patient, population, and financial data. Technology enables care outcome analysis, return on investment calculations, and population health improvements associated with the implementation Whole Person Care delivery methods. By deploying analytical tools, the impact and value of Social Determinants of Health can be fully evaluated.

Understanding the impact of social determinants on population health has been crucial in the fight against COVID-19. The benefit of analyzing biological, behavioral and social factors will better equip payers, providers, and the overall population for the post-COVID era.


Additional Resource:

Health Care Practice