The Troubling Reality of SDOH Surveys

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, health plans are constantly striving to deliver customer-centric and innovative products. A significant part of this is understanding and addressing the Social Drivers of Health (SDOH) that impact members. Recent findings suggest that many health plans might be missing the mark with their SDOH surveys.

The Current State of SDOH Surveys

The concept of Social Drivers of Health (SDOH) has gained significant traction in recent years, with health plans and providers recognizing the profound impact of non-clinical factors on health outcomes. As a result, SDOH surveys have become a staple in assessing the holistic needs of members.

While the intent behind these surveys is commendable, their execution often leaves much to be desired:

Narrow Scope: Many SDOH surveys have a limited focus, primarily targeting imminent financial and immediate housing issues like mold and leaks. This narrow scope overlooks the broader, more subtle challenges individuals face, such as long-term housing stability, social isolation, and transportation barriers.

Lack of Depth: While many SDOH surveys touch on immediate concerns, they often lack depth in exploring the comprehensive needs of individuals, especially the aging population. For instance, while a survey might address immediate housing issues, it may overlook the importance of functional appliances suitable for aging adults. These appliances, such as walk-in tubs, handrails, and non-slip flooring, play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of seniors in their homes. By not delving deep into such aspects, health plans miss out on understanding the full spectrum of challenges their members face, leading to gaps in care and support.

Reactivity Over Proactivity: Current SDOH surveys tend to be reactive, addressing issues once they’ve become critical. A more proactive approach, which anticipates potential challenges and addresses them before they escalate, is often missing.

Data Integration Challenges: Even when valuable data is collected, integrating this data into actionable plans or Electronic Health Records (EHRs) remains a challenge. This disconnect means that crucial information often remains siloed, preventing a holistic approach to patient care.

Evolving Landscape: The landscape of SDOH is continually evolving, with new drivers emerging and existing ones changing in significance. Many surveys fail to adapt to this dynamic landscape, leading to outdated or irrelevant data collection.

A staggering 68% of Americans have experienced at least one unmet social need in the past year, with financial insecurity, social isolation, and food insecurity topping the list. While these figures are alarming, what’s even more concerning is that only 16% of these individuals have been asked about these needs by a healthcare provider. This glaring gap indicates that many health plans are not diving deep enough into the real SDOH needs of their members, highlighting the urgent need for a more comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to SDOH surveys.

The Impact of Overlooking Crucial SDOH Factors

SDOH are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. They account for a significant 30-55% of health outcomes. By not adequately addressing these drivers, health plans risk compromising the quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of the healthcare services they provide.

The Housing Stability Gap

At Upside, we’ve noticed a significant oversight in many SDOH surveys, especially concerning housing stability. While many surveys focus on immediate housing issues like mold and leaks, a vast majority of seniors are suffering in silence, anxious about the long-term viability of remaining in their homes. Our screening and intervention program has identified concerns that traditional surveys often overlook, leading to cost savings for health plans and a better overall experience for members. Furthermore, addressing these housing concerns directly correlates with improved health outcomes for the affected individuals.

The Need for a More Comprehensive Approach

While nearly 80% of organizations are collecting SDOH data, challenges like a lack of standardization, insufficient training, and limited data use for communication persist. It’s not enough to merely collect data; health plans must integrate this data effectively into Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and utilize it to foster communication between healthcare providers and community-based organizations.

Towards a More Holistic Understanding of SDOH

For health plans aiming to ensure high-quality, safe, and cost-effective healthcare services, it’s crucial to adopt a more comprehensive approach to SDOH. By ensuring optimal vendor performance and fostering cost-effective partnerships, health plans can deliver high-quality services that truly address the needs of their members. It’s time to move beyond just “checking the box” and dive deep into understanding and addressing the real SDOH needs of members.

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