Five Ways to Integrate Social Care into Healthcare

November 6, 2019

A new report looks at what’s next as SDoH become more prioritized for both public and private payers in care delivery.

A new report looks at what’s next as social determinants of health (SDoH) become more prioritized for both public and private payers in care delivery.

A National Academies Sept. 25 report summarizes key recommendations for integrating social care (i.e., “services that address health-related social risk factors and social needs”) into healthcare delivery.

The committee highlights five actionable goals to facilitate this integration, including recommendations focused on the development of a more expansive workforce, modernization of data and digital tools and innovation of healthcare financing.

With the recent focus on why SDoH are a vital part of health and healthcare, Avalere’s report Opportunities to Integrate Social Determinants of Health into Healthcare Delivery was conducted by a multidisciplinary committee of experts to address how this integration of social care might be operationalized within our current delivery system. 

Related: Three-pronged Alliance Addresses Social Determinants of Health

The report outlines five activities that can enable the integration of social care into healthcare:

  • Awareness. Identify the social risks and assets for a given population.

  • Adjustment. Alter clinical care to accommodate social barriers.

  • Assistance. Reduce social risk by providing assistance in connecting patients with relevant social care resources.

  • Alignment. Understand and maximize use of existing social care assets within a given community.

  • Advocacy. Collaborate with social care organizations to collectively address health and social needs.

“Sustainable approaches to integrating social determinants of health as an essential part of care delivery are gaining increasing prominence across a diverse range of healthcare stakeholders,” says Jasmaine McClain, consultant II, Avalere Health, an Inovalon Company. “Strategic priorities for healthcare executives will begin to reflect this evolution, requiring an extensive overhaul in organizational infrastructure and resources allocated to addressing social determinants of health.”

Further, the direct impact of SDoH on health outcomes is well-documented, according to McClain, who cites studies that estimate up to 80% of contributing factors impacting an individual’s health can be attributed to socioeconomic, environmental, or behavioral factors. In addition, 2018 research from Avalere Health demonstrates the clear association between proxy variables for social determinants of health (9-digit ZIP code and census block group) and medication adherence.

“This report outlines clear, practical tactics for executives to prioritize in future organizational planning,” she says. “This growing focus on ‘upstream’ factors impacting health outcomes has a substantial impact on your success metrics today, and will continue to gain traction over time. If not yet engaged in initiatives impacting social care, test the feasibility of integrating social determinants of health into your organizational operations in the short-term to prepare for the continuing evolution of incentive structures and stakeholder demands.”

Tracey Walker is senior editor of Managed Healthcare Executive.