ZeOmega Experts Join HHS-CODE Roundtable on Social Determinants of Health

OCTOBER 23, 2019 / BY TRISHA SWIFT & PRAVIN PANT

During the summer, we shared insights into a roundtable attended by ZeOmega leaders and co-hosted by the HHS Office of the Chief Technology Officer and the Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE). That event convened an influential group of healthcare leaders focused on balancing data privacy with health data access and resulted in a number of key takeaways – one being the need to better define social determinants of health (SDoH) and the parameters for its use.

[Related reading: ZeOmega Contributes Expertise to HHS-CODE Roundtable on Privacy and Data Access]

On October 3, ZeOmega leaders once again joined the HHS Office of the Chief Technology Officer and CODE for a follow-up “Roundtable on Leveraging Data on the Social Determinants of Health.” The invitation-only event sought to identify how HHS can support advances in the use of SDoH data and address challenges in SDoH adoption. The roundtable brought together patients and HHS leaders with over 75 experts from federal and state government agencies, industry, academia, legal, and patient advocacy organizations.

As a noted leader in providing solutions and guidance that enable clients to improve consumer health across the healthcare delivery system, ZeOmega was asked to participate and contribute insights and expertise to the discussion. Members of our leadership team, Rahul Singal, MD, chief medical officer, Trisha Swift, DNP, vice president of clinical transformation, and Pravin Pant, MSHI, sr. director of business intelligence and analytics, represented ZeOmega at the roundtable.

Leveraging SDoH data enables a more holistic understanding of the various factors that impact an individual’s risk of disease and response to treatment. SDoH data can include measures like neighborhood air quality, access to transportation, or proximity to a grocery store.
While the discussion around social determinants of health data continues, the group agreed there needs to be a national strategy for defining, aggregating, and creating access to SDoH data across all sectors.

The main topics of discussion centered around the following concepts:

  1. Leveraging SDoH data is essential to achieve health equity and better health outcomes for all people. There are a variety of frameworks that help us understand the SDoH impact on health, such as Health People 2030 (under development). Further developing such frameworks will be key to providing guidance all stakeholders.
  2. SDoH are an influential data source for addressing economic and social conditions that influence health and wellness. However, the industry lacks consensus on which factors to include as SDoH, and there are concerns with the potential misuse of this information in a discriminatory manner. It was agreed that working to close the gaps associated with SDoH result in reduced health inequities and healthcare costs.
  3. The Kaiser Family Foundation has identified six high-level categories of SDoH which are now widely used as a gold standard. The categories are economic stability, neighborhood and physical environment, education, food access, community and social context, and healthcare access – which is affected by the previous five categories.
  4. The various healthcare sectors are using SDoH data in a variety of ways and have developed initiatives and approaches to employing the data. Some examples include advocacy strategies, identifying underserved groups, advanced analytics, care coordination software, and data visualization. All initiatives seek to advance and better understand patient needs and vulnerabilities.
  5. With the rise of SDoH data use to inform healthcare decisions and policy comes growing concern regarding the limitations of using this data and the possibility of bias or risk in local communities. Specifically, there are issues around data availability, quality, and use, as well as policy considerations around potential discrimination and a reliance on individual insights.
  6. Overall, there is a desire across all healthcare sectors for HHS to provide data use governance, access guidelines, data standards, and a centralized repository to help standardize how and where SDoH data is leveraged.

As ZeOmega continues to be part of this national discussion, we will contribute to industry recommendations that will be delivered as an output of this initiative. Our organization is keenly focused on helping payers better manage the 5% of the population that accounts for 50% of healthcare spend and on addressing SDoH as a key driver of these costs.

We remain honored to partner with HHS and CODE to empower data providers and users to maximize the utility of social determinants data while providing necessary considerations regarding privacy, data quality, and individual risk.