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Could SDOH screening be a play in healthcare providers’ COVID-19 attack plans?

As COVID-19 cases climb in the U.S., healthcare providers are strategizing on ways to prioritize testing for specific patient populations and determine overall treatment plans. Already, the world has identified that people age 65 and older, and those with underlying medical conditions, are more susceptible to severe symptoms from the coronavirus. Another group who could be at greater risk? Those individuals with barriers to health, like social determinants.

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the non-medical factors of healthcare that account for up to 80 percent of health outcomes. When patients struggle with access to care or access to medication, they’re less likely to follow treatment plans or show up to important follow-up visits.

In the case of the coronavirus, some providers are now considering SDOH to flag particular data fields in an attempt to identify patients with access to care challenges, specifically where a remote health service or telehealth option would be especially helpful.

Drive-thru coronavirus testing sites are popping up across the country, and healthcare facilities in all states are encouraging individuals to leverage telehealth solutions instead of flooding sites with in-person visits. SDOH screening could assist in proactively identifying individuals who need to be routed to different care channels. Consider the following:

  • Patients screened for testing may liveoutside of driving distance to a hospital or clinic. Should these individuals be guided to a different testing option or alternative location?
  • Some people screened for a test might live alone, without a vehicle, and are unable or unwilling to walk to a testing location. Those with symptoms are discouraged from using public transit, so is at-home testing a better option?
  • Additionally, those who live alone without a vehicle may need a proactive check-in to ensure they have no untested symptoms. Could that help prevent a 911 call and additional stress on the emergency department?

Proactively screening a patient population by  “access to care” data could enable a provider to  expand its coronavirus care strategy and consider information that might mitigate future surges in coronavirus cases and ED and clinic visits. Giving attention to patients or members with non-clinical needs and pairing them with the right engagement strategy before they require an escalated response can have a positive impact on clinical services.

“Integrating SDOH data into clinical systems is something providers are just beginning to do, but the response required by COVID-19 presents an opportunity to accelerate that,” said Karly Rowe, Vice President of Product Development for Experian Health. “Identifying at-risk patients who may need help tapping into personalized screening and treatment options could help providers quickly suggest the ideal course of action for individuals, and at the same time conserve resources and contribute to the safety of staff and the larger community.”

It’s early days of COVID-19, but data will certainly be a differentiator in managing the first pandemic in the 21st century.

“Speed, efficiency and accuracy are critical in situations like what healthcare professionals are facing today,” said Rowe. “Innovative use of data is a big part of delivering on those.”