Top 5 ways to ethically use social determinants of health and wellbeing data

social determinants of health data

It is vital for organizations to adopt ethical standards in order to effectively collect and address individuals’ social determinants of health data, according to a group of stakeholders led by the eHealth Initiative (eHI) Foundation.

Benefits of targeting the social determinants of health has been acknowledged, but the industry doesn’t have definite strategies on how to use this information to inform patient care.

The group includes leaders from AHIMA, the American Cancer Society, Google Cloud, and LexisNexis Health Care. It made an outline on how medical professionals can ethically leverage data related to the social determinants of health.

A new document released by eHI discusses five guiding principles to help the industry utilize social determinants data and improve patient outcomes.

1. Clinical and non-clinical needs:

eHI says that organizations that get access to individuals’ social determinants information can use this data to make informed care coordination decisions.

Providers offer a more holistic care by providing connections to additional services and resources that align with security and privacy protections. 

SDOH data will lead to better care management and personalized care by getting a better understanding of health and well-being of individuals. Providers can get help from community health workers and other stakeholders to create personal care plans that combine medical and social needs.

2. Data analytics tools to determine patient risk:

SDOH data can feed data analytics tools, like machine learning algorithms and predictive models, to predict future health outcomes. Organizations can find out if patients are at risk of hospital readmission or non-adherence to medication. They can take the necessary steps to mitigate that risk.

3. Community resources:

eHI believes that stakeholders should evaluate individuals’ social needs, and match those needs to the services to bridge the gap. Community workers can help organizations map existing resources to local populations privately and securely. Confidentiality and privacy need to be maintained in this process.

4. Track health outcomes:

Stakeholders need to evaluate how social determinants interventions affects patients. Providers, payers and others should track interventions and their correlations to better health outcomes. A standard process for tracking referral outcomes is necessary.

This process becomes vital to coordinate between social service organizations and healthcare stakeholders to evaluate and track results so that necessary adjustments to the intervention can be made.

5. Role of patients and caregivers in care intervention plans:

There should be a collaborative effort when care plans based on individuals’ social determinants are made. Providers, patients, caregivers and others can jointly take decisions about which services and interventions are the best fit.

Individuals who get impacted should be a part of the discussion when SDOH is used to improve their care.

Social determinants of health and wellbeing play a vital role in care delivery, it is crucial for stakeholders to handle the data ethically and transparently to obtain better outcomes.