How healthcare organizations are using technology to address the social determinants of health
Technology can be a powerful tool for organizations seeking to address the social determinants of health (SDoH) within their communities. As healthcare organizations (HCOs) continue to take innovative approaches to value-based care delivery and address SDoH, they’re also looking toward groundbreaking technology to support their initiatives.
Now, more than ever, HCOs are leveraging new technologies to overcome challenges they face when locating and referring patients and members to community resources, and to provide data insights about the needs in the communities they serve.
SDoH Programs Improving Outcomes
The ability to readily locate and connect patients and members to community resources is a critical part of addressing SDoH and according to research, connecting to nonclinical, SDoH-related programs can lead to improved health outcomes. For example, a study of Community Servings, a not-for-profit organization delivering medically tailored meals (MTMs), compared health insurance claims of participants who received ten ready-to-consume meals tailored to the specific medical needs with those who did not receive meals. Of the study’s 1,020 participants, MTM receipt was associated with half as many hospital admissions and fewer skilled nursing facility admissions. Researchers also estimated that monthly healthcare costs were $753 less on average for participants who received meals compared to those who did not.
On a broader scale, WellCare Health Plans, Inc., through it HealthConnections program, offers a call center-based program to its members so they can be matched and obtain free referrals to a nationwide network of local, community-based public assistance programs. A study of the initiative spanning two years found the healthcare costs of Medicaid and Medicare Advantage participants who reported all of their social needs met was $2,443 lower in the second year of the program, compared to those who reported none of their social needs met.
Adopting New Technology to Address SDoH
Other HCOs are also understanding the value associated with connecting their patients or members to SDoH-related programs and are looking to emerging technology to facilitate those connections. For example, Coordinated Behavioral Care Independent Practice Association (CBC IPA), a member-led IPA and the second-largest Medicaid Health Home in New York City, sought to build an effective community-based referral network among its organizations. As a result, CBC IPA selected Healthify to create an online community resource directory and referral system.
One of the main challenges facing CBC IPA was the administrative burden required to locate, review and refer patients to hundreds of services across the largest U.S. city, New York City. It recognized that partnering with a technology vendor could improve this process and eventually lead to improved outcomes for its patients. In 2018, CBC IPA partnered with Healthify to implement a system that would enable its network of providers to easily search, view and electronically refer patients to 1,500 community-based programs across the five boroughs of New York City. Healthify also implemented a closed-loop referral tracking system and analytics platform to measure quality metrics, costs and other performance measures.
As of early 2019, CBC IPA currently uses the Healthify platform to conduct 700 to 800 searches for community resources every month, while two member organizations are pilot-testing the closed-loop referral process and nine more organizations are expected to implement this feature this year.
Key SDoH Takeaways
With results like these, technology can be the key to overcoming the challenges HCOs face when addressing SDoH. Through emerging technologies, data and communication can be more efficient, effective and transparent. As more innovations in SDoH technology continue to arise, HCOs are closer to fulfilling the promise of value-based care.
To learn more about the challenges some HCOs face when addressing SDoH, download our latest white paper: The Impact of SDoH on Health Plans: Legacy Challenges and Innovative Solutions. In this white paper, we examine the fundamental challenges health plans face when addressing the social determinants of health and solutions to overcome those barriers.