Health outcomes aren’t determined only by the medications prescribed or consultations given in a provider’s office. Contrary to popular belief, only 10 to 20 percent of an individual’s outcomes are driven by medical care alone. The remaining 80-90 percent is driven by what’s called social determinants of health (SDoH) or, the environmental and social factors at play in our lives and our communities. It’s in addressing these factors – and tracking the related metrics – that present possibly the most powerful way to support health equity, preventable events and overutilization of emergency services. The COVID-19 pandemic has put into stark contrast our collective ability to combat and overcome public health crises – crises which are largely affected by health equity and SDoH.
Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are “conditions in places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health and quality of life risks and outcomes.” It isn’t just about physical or mental health diagnoses or a chronic condition; it is about all of the circumstances surrounding a person: their living situation, job and social environment.
When it comes to actionable insights that can lead to fundamental change, the power of SDoH boils down to a combination of data that provides both a 360 view of a population’s health from a clinical perspective and a snapshot of potential risk based on social factors. Based on these findings, providers and/or payers can connect individuals with existing community resources that proactively address the factors which so heavily predicate health outcomes. For example, among its many other impacts, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has further illuminated how both social factors and health care inequity play a critical role in our ability to respond to a public health crisis. It has spotlighted the importance of addressing factors like digital health literacy. Digital health care exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in millions of Americans being left behind who weren’t able to experience the benefits of digital health care due to gaps in digital health literacy. Low digital health literacy is both a cause and an effect of digital health care inaccessibility. Those without access do not become literate, and those that are health illiterate do not appreciate or prioritize the value of digital access to maintain or improve their health. This is especially troubling during the COVID-19 pandemic where states are taking different approaches to testing and vaccinations that require digital literacy in the absence of a federal vaccine management system. Residents that are unable to access information or make appointments for vaccines online may prolong the COVID-19 crisis.
When coupled with clinical risk data, SDoH helps paint a clear picture of what resources are needed most, and where. And it’s an area where 3M Health Information Systems (HIS) is going all in.
This year, 3M launched its Social Determinants of Health Analytics (SDoH) technology platform that pairs 3M™ Clinical Risk Groups (CRG) which help to identify medically complex populations, with social risk, in order to understand how social risk impacts medical complexity and healthcare utilization. This powerful combination of data allows payers and providers to identify at-risk patient populations from both a medical and social perspective, supplying a clearer path to more effective, and long-lasting, assistance. Simply put, integrating clinical and social risk allows providers and plans to more effectively care for members.