Social Determinants of Health Can Provide a Holistic View on Health

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As providers are moving towards a Value-Based Payment (VBP) approach, they are beginning to look at non-clinical data to help provide them with a more holistic view of their patients’ health. Throughout this transition period, providers will not simply provide medical care when needed, but will begin to look at new ways to promote wellness and link their patients to additional resources and services within the community, such as transportation, food, employment, and financial assistance.

According to an analysis from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, only 20% of a patient’s health is determined by clinical care. Thirty percent of a patient’s health is determined by personal behaviors. These behaviors include tobacco use, diet and exercise, and alcohol and drug use. When it comes to personal behaviors, there are many programs and apps out there that clinicians and care teams can direct their patients towards to help them quit smoking, lose weight, or stay sober (some are more easily accessible than others).

But what about the other 50%? According to the analysis, 10% was attributable to environmental factors such as air and water quality, while 40% was attributable to social and economic factors. These two factors combined are called Social Determinants of Health or SDOH. Social Determinant of Health include factors such as income, education, employment, health literacy, family and social support, safety, transportation, and food.

These Social Determinants of Health can impact a persons ability to seek care or stick to a care plan, adversely affecting their overall health. For example, if there is no grocery store in their neighborhood, access to healthy food can become a challenge for those with Diabetes. Or if they have no access to reliable transportation, getting to their doctor appointment, or picking up their medication becomes a barrier. As individuals come across these barriers, they make it difficult for them to maintain a healthy lifestyle, often resulting in a hospital visit or hospital admission due to not having access to healthy food which helped them control their diabetes, or couldn’t get to their pharmacy for their inhaler and ended up not being able to breath and were taken to the emergency room.

Addressing the Social Determinants of Health that influence a person’s health can be complex and challenging for providers as these factors are diverse. This is where developing community partnerships to leverage their knowledge and expertise with SDOH becomes a critical component for providers. These community partnerships can help capture additional data, providing clinicians with a holistic view on each of their patients, creating a more personalized, patient-centric approach.

Sources: Using Data to Understand Patients More Holistically by H&HN
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program