Analytics for Social Determinants of Health: Start With the End Goal in Mind

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As the healthcare industry moves toward digital maturity, it faces complex data challenges, including managing health inequity. It’s critical for healthcare organizations, community social services, and health plans to identify and analyze key social determinants of health (SDoH) to help mitigate the harmful effects of bias in our healthcare system.

Role of SDoH in Healthcare and Health Inequity

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines social determinants of health as “the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”

These determinants play a significant role in overall health. Some research from the National Institute of Health (NIH) asserts that “intervening on the SDoH can improve health inequity by removing systemic barriers, thereby addressing root causes of [diseases like obesity], and helping individuals overcome contextual challenges related to prevention and self-care.”

Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Challenges in Collecting, Sharing, and Leveraging SDoH Data

Addressing SDoH issues in any meaningful way starts with data collection—the end goal is actionable insights. However, there are significant challenges to overcome like a lack of standardized definitions and measures for SDoH. 

Rubrics may vary from organization to organization or from state to state, and the absence of uniform collecting and reporting methodologies limits the ability of healthcare organizations and services to implement a strong strategy to address deficiencies. Trying to leverage non-standardized data for analysis can lead to incorrect hypotheses based on inaccurate “apples-to-oranges” comparisons.

Other challenges include:

  • Technical obstacles to sharing SDoH data across multiple organizations with disparate systems that lack interoperability
  • Difficulties extracting pertinent SDoH data from electronic health records (EHRs) 
  • Administrative burdens
  • Privacy and data compliance concerns

Building Your SDoH Analytics Strategy 

SDoH data challenges are not insurmountable. You can address them with the right skills, processes, and technologies.

Start With the End Goal in Mind
To avoid being overwhelmed by data, narrow your focus on where your organization can make the biggest impact. This mindset will set you up for success and will maximize your efforts. Once you have determined your area of focus, you can allocate the needed resources to implement it.

Choose Your Vendor Wisely
Some SDoH vendors maintain open-source data and third-party consumer data, which they integrate with your clinical data to calculate a social vulnerability index. Others maintain SDoH data and provide analytic services to help you determine the most appropriate data for collection and analysis. Some vendors may also go the extra mile and interpret the data for you. Then, there are vendors that use fully customized SDoH data sets drawn from your organization and integrate them with your clinical and financial data.

Regardless of type, your vendor should adequately ingest, cleanse, and integrate SDoH data with your existing systems. TIBCO’s Omni-HealthData platform features built-in SDoH analytics, uses publically available SDoH data, and integrates this data with your systems to deliver robust insights.

SDoH data challenges are not insurmountable. You can address them with the right skills, processes, and technologies. Click To Tweet

TIBCO: Your Partner for SDoH Analytics

With easy-to-use, intuitive dashboards and data visualizations, TIBCO solutions provide a holistic view of patient needs that goes beyond clinical care and drives your organization’s capabilities in building the future of healthcare with data.
Ready to start on your journey to better SDoH analysis? Visit our healthcare resources center to learn more.