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Leveraging Data Analytics to Address Social Determinants of Health: A Comprehensive Overview

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Dr. Jessica Nelson
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Leveraging Data Analytics to Address Social Determinants of Health: A Comprehensive Overview

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Today, healthcare is not just about treating diseases; it's about understanding the wider social and economic factors that contribute to them. Known as the social determinants of health (SDOH), these factors include everything from economic stability and education levels, to housing and food security. Just as a faucet continuously supplies water, the data on these determinants is always flowing, providing a wealth of information that can help improve healthcare outcomes. This article delves into the use of data analytics in addressing SDOH, showcasing the potential of technology to advance health equity.

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Using Healthcare Data Analytics to Address SDOH

Healthcare data analytics can play a significant role in acknowledging and capturing data related to SDOH. Organizations such as the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT) are working tirelessly to overcome barriers like disconnected medical records that hamper equitable healthcare outcomes. The NHIT has launched the Data Fusion Center, a platform designed to pull together and ingest publicly available de-identified datasets to understand SDOH and its impacts better.1

Innovative Technology Solutions in Practice

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From predictive analytics to interoperable tools, innovative technology solutions are enabling practitioners to address health inequality in novel ways. For instance, Veterans Services of the Carolinas uses predictive analytics to understand an individual's risk for homelessness better and effectively allocate resources. Simultaneously, the digitization of patient intake forms and other related documents is improving the patient experience and leading to better outcomes.1

Policy Guidelines and Initiatives

The U.S. government is also recognizing the importance of addressing SDOH. The White House recently released the first-ever U.S. Playbook to Address Social Determinants of Health, a policy guide aimed at integrating social services, public health, and the healthcare system to improve health outcomes in local communities.2

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Benefits of Data Analytics in Addressing SDOH

The use of healthcare data analytics to address SDOH can lead to improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. By identifying and addressing social factors that impact health outcomes, such as access to care, housing, education, and economic stability, healthcare providers can better meet their patients' needs.3

Handling Big Data in Healthcare

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The healthcare industry is generating an unprecedented amount of data, with the average hospital producing 137TB per day. Sophisticated data analytics are needed to make time-sensitive decisions around complex populations. The marrying of risk and quality, the importance of fast and effective implementation, simplified solutions for care management programs, and the need for big tools to handle big data in healthcare organizations are paramount.4

Health Informatics Maturity Model

A step towards addressing SDOH through healthcare data analytics is the development of a Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Informatics Maturity Model. This model assesses the maturity of healthcare organizations in integrating social and environmental determinants of health data into their analytics processes.5

In conclusion, healthcare data analytics is a powerful tool for understanding and addressing the social determinants of health. By leveraging this technology, healthcare providers can move beyond treating diseases to tackling the underlying factors that cause them, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes and greater health equity.

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