Why is SDOH an Important Trend in the Healthcare Industry?

Why is SDOH an Important Trend in the Healthcare Industry? | Healthcare | Emeritus

Right to equal access to healthcare is one of the most fundamental human rights. However, there still exists significant health disparities, especially for the underprivileged sections of the society. One of the leading causes for this is SDOH.

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are defined as social factors that impact health, access to healthcare, and the quality of life of people. These factors include housing conditions, employment, education, environmental conditions, and transportation. This blog discusses how SDOH is shaping the future of the healthcare industry.

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Why are Social Determinants of Health Becoming a Key Focus in Healthcare?

One of the key reasons for the increasing focus on SDOH is to improve the overall health and well-being of the US population. According to the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2023, mental health deterioration and chronic diseases are among the top 30 global risks over the short and long terms.

The report also says the increasing costs of food, energy, and housing will deteriorate the health and well-being outcomes for communities. This can lead to the collapse of the healthcare systems because of a lack of adequate infrastructure and high burnout rates in healthcare professionals. Moreover, significant healthcare risks will ultimately create immense financial burden on health systems and impact the overall growth of the nation. 

As healthcare systems start to fall, the mortality rate will increase, which will slow down economic activity. Shrinking healthcare systems can have a far-reaching impact on a nation’s security as well. Poor economic growth also poses high risks for cyberattacks and wars.

The old saying, “Health is wealth”, holds weight in this aspect. The role of social determinants of health is paramount in ensuring health equity and access to quality healthcare. Both government and private organizations need to focus on SDOH for strengthening healthcare systems and improving population health. Consequently, stakeholders can design and implement effective strategies to reduce health disparities.

Let’s see how understanding SDOH can improve the future of healthcare services:

  • Understanding social economic factors helps healthcare professionals detect possible negative health outcomes and implement precautionary measures
  • It can facilitate early hospital admissions and reduce the mortality rate
  • Healthcare professionals can recommend better social support services to people at risk of developing chronic diseases 
  • Learning about SDOH increases health literacy, improving population health and mental well-being
  • It also reduces financial stress on healthcare systems

ALSO READ: What is Healthcare Data Analytics? Why is it Important for Patient Care?

How Can Technology Play a Role in Addressing SDOH?

Right medical intervention at the right time can save the lives of patients, especially those dealing with chronic diseases. This is where technology plays a crucial role in healthcare industry trends. Let’s explore the impact of technology in addressing SDOH.

1. Maintain Electronic Healthcare Records 

Data collection and management is one of the most crucial yet challenging processes for the healthcare industry. However, technology can simplify this process through automation. 

Healthcare organizations can leverage technologies such as AI, ML, and cloud computing to collect, process, and maintain all patient records in one place. Therefore, healthcare providers can easily see patient history, symptoms, causes, and potential risks and suggest treatments accordingly.

2. Track Social Determinants 

AI, ML, and other technologies can also facilitate healthcare data analytics, helping track social determinants for health. Such technologies can collect and process patient data, detect common SDOH factors among patients, predict the likelihood of disease risk in patients, and suggest appropriate treatments.

3. Monitor Patient Health Remotely

Video conferencing technology makes remote access to healthcare more feasible for patients. It reduces the need for patients to travel all the way to clinics, a significant SDOH factor. Healthcare providers can connect with patients online to assess their symptoms and even living conditions.

Moreover, wearable health devices will play a crucial role in the future of healthcare services. They can track patients’ overall health and send emergency alerts to healthcare providers.

ALSO READ: Transforming Healthcare With Data

What are the Future Implications of Prioritizing SDOH in Healthcare?

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has set data-driven national objectives for SDOH under its Healthy People 2030 initiative. These objectives focus on five key areas:

  • Healthcare access and quality 
  • Education access and quality 
  • Economic stability 
  • Social and community context 
  • Neighborhood and built environment 

Under these objectives, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) provides people with access to safe housing, transportation, and nutritious food. It has 359 measurable objectives to assess the impact of SDOH. Attaining these objectives will likely increase SDOH’s role in healthcare, reducing healthcare disparities and increasing health equity.

How Can Healthcare Professionals Better Integrate SDOH Into Patient Care?

A major concern in prioritizing SDOH in healthcare is the lack of adequate training for healthcare providers. They mainly focus on physical and mental factors for disease instead of socioeconomic factors. Hence, some of the most effective strategies to integrate SDOH into patient care are:

  • Vulnerable populations in underprivileged areas should have access to relevant resources and dedicated healthcare communities for support
  • Healthcare providers should interact with SDOH support communities to understand the impact and concerns related to SDOH
  • Management committees and healthcare organizations should prepare frameworks for integrating SDOH data related to a particular territory for health equity and access to quality medical treatment

What are the Challenges in Implementing SDOH-Focused Initiatives in the Healthcare Industry?

Even though several organizations such as the WHO and the Department of Health and Human Services are taking up several SDOH initiatives, they encounter many challenges.

One of the most pressing issues in tracking SDOH is the lack of standardized data. Different organizations use different questions, tools, and methods to track SDOH. This lack of uniformity makes it difficult to implement initiatives that can address specific determinants in different locations.

A white paper by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) explains other challenges with SDOH data:

  • Integrating SDOH data into a patient’s medical records 
  • Inadequate training regarding capturing, collecting, and using SDOH data
  • Finally, there is also the problem of healthcare providers not using SDOH data appropriately 

Another major challenge is the lack of accountability. Organizations struggle to decide the appropriate authority to implement SDOH initiatives.

ALSO READ: Top 5 Benefits of AI in Healthcare and How it Improves Patient Care

SDOH impacts the economic stability and growth of a country significantly. Hence, there is a dire need for tech-savvy healthcare professionals who understand the role of social determinants of health and its impact and can contribute to framing policies and initiatives for the same. Therefore, healthcare professionals must learn all about SDOH to boost their careers, especially if they want to join leading healthcare organizations. Emeritus’ online healthcare courses can help you learn the fundamental concepts of SDOH, relevant technical skills, and healthcare industry trends to advance your career.

Write to us at content@emeritus.org

About the Author

Content Writer, Emeritus Blog
Sanmit is unraveling the mysteries of Literature and Gender Studies by day and creating digital content for startups by night. With accolades and publications that span continents, he's the reliable literary guide you want on your team. When he's not weaving words, you'll find him lost in the realms of music, cinema, and the boundless world of books.
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