How Healthcare Data Moves Social Determinants of Health from a ‘Great Theory’ to ‘Great Care’

Healthcare is experiencing a significant transformation largely driven by the shift from fee-for-service care to value-based care. This shift requires moving from a reactive system that reimburses for treatment of disease, to incentivizing better outcomes that can be achieved by using a proactive approach that focuses on prevention. This current focus on reactive treatments and end-of-life care is prevalent in our system, where 5% of the U.S. population generates over 50% of all health care costs. The shift to value-based care also calls for reimbursement to prioritize the quality of care with providers focusing on reducing variation and providing the best, evidence-based solutions.

However, this transition of the clinical care delivery system will not be enough to move us into a fully value-driven health system, as medical care alone accounts for less than 20% of healthcare outcomes. The remaining 80% of the factors that determine health and well-being is based on social determinants like income, education, where people live, their social network, health behaviors, and environment. Together, these factors are called Social Determinants of Health (SDoH). These factors significantly affect an individual’s probability to develop health conditions as well as their ability to manage these conditions after their diagnosis. 

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