Data shows that only 20% of a patient’s health outcomes are influenced by their access to and quality of healthcare. That leaves 80% to be determined by other factors, such as where we live, work, play, go to school, and get our groceries. These socioeconomic factors are called social determinants of health, or SDOH, and there’s growing evidence pointing to the importance of understanding and addressing these factors for both providers and insurers.
One study seeking to understand the importance of socioeconomic factors is being conducted by researchers at Utica University. In 2021 researchers were given a prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Data for Action (HD4A) grant to study the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic. This grant was used to obtain SDOH data from FinThrive, including approximately 130 socioeconomic variables across 1.3 million zip codes in New York, North Carolina, Arizona, California, Virginia and Texas.
The study has 3 goals:
- Assess if regions with higher proportions of racial and ethnic minorities are experiencing disproportionate economic distress as a result of the COVID-19 recession
- Examine if regions that were already dealing with high levels of economic distress are more or less prone to further economic distress as a result of the COVID-19 recession
- Explore how the economic distress of COVID-19 in metropolitan areas has affected the economy of their hinterlands
It is well known that socioeconomic status is a driver of health outcomes. Seeing the story lines through household and community analysis is a validation of that. What we must do now is activate these types of findings with Policy Makers, Health IT Leaders and Community Healthcare Centers to better serve those in need.
Healthcare Leaders Discuss Health Data at the Community Level
The Utica research team recently convened a panel at the Annual Integrative Health Conference in Utica, NY to discuss the early findings of the research and other lessons learned during the pandemic. The conference is designed to bring practitioners from different health fields to provide a holistic view of healthcare. This includes psychologists, physicians, data science professionals and many other subject matter experts, making this a perfect place to discuss the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic and on health outcomes.
- John Milligan, CEO of Upstate Family Health Center
- Anne Gadomski M.D., M.P.H., Attending Pediatrician and Director, Bassett Research Institute
- Jeff Becker, M.B.A., Vice President, Portfolio Marketing at FinThrive
- Anthony J. Picente, Jr., Oneida County Executive
John Milligan, CEO at Upstate Family Health Center, shared how his organization evolved over the course of the pandemic and how they are working more closely with the community and community organizations to address needs.
For example, to address issues connected with food insecurity Milligan shared how his team would stop a consult if the patient hadn’t eaten, give them a warm meal, then start the exam. “They come in for their health visit and the first thing out of their mouth is ‘I haven’t eaten in 2 days.’ You can’t do an exam on someone like that. We can’t address someone’s diabetes when they’re worried about where they’re going to sleep tonight. Until we address the social determinants of health, healthcare will always be secondary for these folks.”
Jeff Becker, VP of Segment Marketing at FinThrive, noted how interest in SDOH has increased since the pandemic. “What we saw through the Fall of 2020 in the height of the pandemic was growth and interest from the C-Suite in Payers and Providers in addressing Health Equity. We have known for a long time that SDOH are connected to clinical outcomes. Now with interest growing, we’re more empowered to really do something about it.”
Becker went on to describe how new technologies have cropped up over the last two years that can identify insights from SDOH data and create alerts so providers can refer out to community organizations that can take action to address those needs, just as they would refer out to a specialist. “These community organizations are an integral part of healthcare. They need to be brought into the fold of what we think of as our health system.”
This passionate panelist discussion is just one of many conversations happening daily in our US Healthcare ecosystem. The impact of SDOH on clinical outcomes is still a burgeoning topic, but leaders across the industry are working to bring awareness to the issue and affect real change. As a leader in SDOH Insights, FinThrive plans to expand our support for brilliant social scientists, such as Dr. Michael McCarthy of Utica University, and world leading institutions such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Progressing toward a more attainable Health Equity takes all of us working together!
For more information on how SDOH data can affect outcomes, download our guide.
Utica University Researchers: Dr. Michael McCarthy, Dr. Patrice Hallock, Dr. Stephanie Nesbit and many others