Enriching patient identity management with social determinants of health

Published: May 6, 2021 by Experian Health

Knowing that clinical care accounts for only a portion of health outcomes, understanding how patients are affected by social determinants of health (SDOH) continues to gain attention as a critical factor in care delivery. COVID-19 has thrust the issue even further into the spotlight, with socially and economically vulnerable groups hardest hit by the pandemic. At the same time, the expansion of telehealth services over the last year has benefited some marginalized groups, who may feel uncomfortable visiting health facilities or may, for example, sometimes face challenges finding transportation to and from their visits. What’s clear is that when it comes to mitigating the impact of COVID-19’s lingering effects, patient identities based on clinical data alone simply won’t cut it. Providers need a holistic view of patients – both clinical and non-clinical.

Many providers do not have updated contact information for the patients they want to engage, in addition to missing patient-level insights such as housing, food, access to technology, transportation and financial stability data that could help better engage patients. Given the many complicated personal and structural barriers that may exist to accessing healthcare, providers lacking SDOH data in patients’ records are risking avoidable readmissions, unnecessary ED visits, poor care quality ratings and denied reimbursements.

Understanding patient needs and preferences via lifestyle factors – like occupation and technological knowledge – helps providers improve engagement, outreach and access. The results can be game-changing.

The benefits of an enriched, more robust patient record with SDOH

  1. Improved certainty of patient needs to achieve healthy outcomes

Whether it’s missed appointments, lack of engagement, deferred treatment, or failure to comply with care instructions – if SDOH is the cause, providers need to know.  An enriched patient record that includes clearly defined SDOH risks and insights to those risks is invaluable.

For example, if a patient record includes recommended engagement strategies suggesting medication delivery, or ensuring medications are with the patient at discharge, due to the patient’s difficulty accessing a pharmacy, negative outcome risk is reduced. Significant provider blind spots that might otherwise interfere with desired health outcomes can be eliminated or extensively mitigated with access to this kind of data.

Consumer data gives additional insight useful in risk stratification efforts, allowing care teams to get granular and proactive if, for example, a patient’s lifestyle makes office-hour calls impossible, or if a lack of transportation requires the patient be informed that telehealth is available. Additionally, the data can flag if the patient prefers reminders by text, voice message or email. These considerations make a difference; 80-90% of modifiable contributors to healthy outcomes for a population are regularly attributed to the social, economic and environmental factors that comprise SDOH.

  1. Connecting the dots can improve care coordination

SDOH data doesn’t just help flag general access issues; it can also help providers dig into specific challenges that may warrant referrals to community programs or additional staffing support. SDOH data may lead to the discovery that a patient is struggling to access healthy, affordable food and prompt a conversation about getting referred to an in-network nutritionist or local food partnership.

Patient-specific information can be merged with consumer databases covering a range of socio-economic data, initiating proactive conversations with patients that can solve non-clinical gaps in care.

  1. Clarity of the “why” behind patient insights, for better communication and engagement

Someone experiencing financial instability as a result of pandemic-related unemployment will expect a different financial conversation than someone who has lived in poverty for their whole life. Further, two patients with high readmission risk can have completely different social determinants of health impacting that risk.  Knowing that patients are affected by SDOH is only one piece of the puzzle. Understanding the bigger picture helps create a whole picture and enables personalized, sensitive, and helpful communication.

A turn-key SDOH solution that helps define the “why” behind the score avoids analysis paralysis and enables a quick, effective engagement strategy based on what really matters to patients. Supplementing patient surveys with consumer data is also important, as it provides deeper insights and recommendations for engagement strategies.

Of course, a connected system only works when the patient identity is accurate and tracks them from service to service. With a universal identity manager, you can have confidence that your teams are all working from a complete, current and insights-rich view of each patient.

Find out more about how Experian Health can help your organization make sense of SDOH data for better patient identity management and a more personalized patient experience.

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