Role of data & analytics in alleviating health inequities

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting global recession caused a significant increase in poverty around the world as many families lost their sources of income. The poorest families, especially those without access to social protection, were hit the hardest. As a result, the World Health Organization urged governments and health organizations to pay attention to the social determinants of health to take steps to optimize community well-being.

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are any of a variety of non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They encompass the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age — shaping their overall health. These factors include attributes associated with one’s environment, patterns of social engagement, and one’s sense of security and well-being. Collectively, SDOH influences health, working life conditions, and quality of life.

In this article, we’ll discuss how social determinants of health impact overall wellness across populations, including disparities in healthcare, and the role data can play in alleviating these inequities and shaping healthcare outcomes.

Social determinant factors

Patients’ health depends not only on the care they receive in a provider’s office but also on social determinants of health such as individual lifestyle choices, living situation, and access to healthy food.

According to a study by the CDC, social determinants of health fall into five broad groups:

HIMSS Illustration



Key benefits of studying social determinants

Addressing social determinants is important for improving health and reducing health disparities. Understanding social factors gives valuable insight into possible negative health outcomes for patients in many domains. Below are the key benefits of studying social determinants of health.

Holistic healthcare: Incorporating social determinants into healthcare practices fosters a more holistic and comprehensive approach to patient care. For instance, factors such as a patient’s education, income level, and environment should be considered when providing treatment and care.

Addressing health inequities: Social determinants have an important influence on health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries.

Resource development: Acknowledging social determinants can initiate the development of resources to solve inequality and strengthen the overall health of the community.

Influencing health outcomes: Research shows that social determinants can be more important than healthcare or lifestyle choices in influencing health outcomes.

The impact of social determinants of health

Social determinants of health have a significant impact on people’s health, well-being, and quality of life. A growing body of research indicates:

  • Children born to parents who haven’t completed high school are more likely to live in environments that contain barriers to health.
  • Poor individuals who are white are less likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty than poor racial and ethnic minorities.
  • As income decreases, the likelihood of premature death increases.
  • There is a direct link between the likelihood of smoking, shorter life expectancy, and lower income.
  • The environment in which an individual lives may impact future generations.
  • Stress related to disparities has a direct link to health and often results from overlapping factors.

Negative social determinants of health can lead to disparities in healthcare, which can be costly and inhibit the overall quality of care and population health. This can result in added healthcare expenses, loss of productivity, and premature death. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 30% of direct medical costs for black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans are unnecessary costs incurred due to inefficiencies, disparities, or inequities in the healthcare system. In addition, the US economy loses an estimated $309 billion annually due to the direct and indirect costs of disparities.

Role of data & analytics in alleviating healthcare inequities

Barriers like a lack of data standards and costly datasets can hinder an organization’s access to social determinants information. However, developing an approach for more holistic patient care will be necessary for organizations looking to improve patient and population health, whether the data is complete or not.

Data and analytics are vital in helping to end these disparities and ensuring that all populations have the same access to services and care, not only for COVID-19 but also for all diseases and disorders that threaten public health.

Through data analytics and population health management, providers can improve patient outcomes, enhance care management, and address social determinants of health. Nowadays, data analytics are helping providers replace the “one size fits all” care mentality to deliver value-based care. Providers can assess which processes are the most effective methods for wellness and prevention within value-based care models. With population health management, organizations can consider physical and social determinants of health that may impact individuals and focus on “well care” rather than waiting for a patient to become ill.

Building a better healthcare system with Fractal

Health disparities and inequities are shaped by a multitude of factors in an individual’s socio-economic and healthcare journey. The health outcomes of an individual are significantly influenced by social determinants of health of the community in which they reside.

Fractal’s RAISE, powered by AWS, is an AI-powered solution that helps organizations speed up population health and health equity journeys. RAISE combines a member’s community data with clinical and social needs, assisting organizations in crafting the right interventions. It also creates a multifaceted approach involving data, analytics, and AI to advance health equity. It helps identify the drivers of inequities and disparities that are specific to the members of the organization.

AWS equips Fractal’s AI/ML solutions with the scalability, reliability, and security needed to deliver its solutions to healthcare providers and patients worldwide. By leveraging AWS, Fractal is helping to make a real difference in the lives of people affected by health inequities by supporting community-based healthcare organizations, advocating for policies that address the social determinants of health, and promoting health education and literacy.

Fractal recently led an on-demand webinar in collaboration with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) to discuss health inequities. It explained how Fractal has been solving various healthcare-related issues using advanced AI/ML solutions.

The webinar featured Fractal’s Chief Practice Officer, Matt Gennone, and Dr. David Nash, an advisor at Fractal. They discussed the economic impact of health inequities and delayed care and how healthcare can return to its “true north” of providing high-quality care.

To know more, watch this session.

Contact us to learn more.

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