Leaders in the healthcare industry realize that optimum health outcomes are dependent on much more than diagnoses and prescriptions. To improve patient outcomes, organizations must work to address barriers caused by social determinants of health (SDoH).
The SDoH, which include genetics, lifestyle, and location as well as the ability to access healthy food, clean water, housing, and transportation, have been found to impact up to 80 percent of clinical outcomes. Recognizing the impact of these non-clinical factors on healthcare outcomes, providers should examine and draw correlations between adherence to treatment plans and the impacts of SDoH. According to HGS’s Mary Jane Konstantin in a recent webinar, this can be done comparing a patient with the SDoH levels of criticality.
The goal is simple. If a provider can move a patient through all levels — bottom to top — the patient is considered “self-managed” and has a high likelihood of adhering to treatment guidelines and returning to full health.
In the first tier of criticality, healthcare experts must look at a patient’s ability to prioritize health compliance. For providers, this means examining if the patient has access to a reliable food source or if the patient is physically safe. “If you don’t have even the lowest tier resolved, you’re wasting time,” explained Konstantin. If you have individuals dealing with food insecurity the attention, time, and mental bandwidth that they’re going to be able to devote to staying on top of their treatment plan will not be [adequate].”
From there, providers must consider a patient’s access to transportation and stable housing as these determine their ability to get to appointments, store medicines, and use medical devices. For the third tier, prescribers need to investigate whether or not the patient can manage and coordinate any time off work or childcare needed in order for them to adhere to their plan, which may include routine doctor appointments. Once at the top of the pyramid, providers may move forward without adjustments to the treatment plan as the patient is considered self-managed.
By using the SDoH levels of criticality, providers better understand what determinants affect each individual most and in what areas patients can be assisted whether that be in terms of transportation or even access to refrigeration for medications and prescriptions. Once these determinants are recognized, and if possible, corrected, providers are better able to tailor treatment plans and improve patient outcomes for the populations they serve.
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