February 17, 2021
Electronic health records track a huge amount of data, from patient demographics and vital signs to diagnoses and progress notes. However, in recent years, many providers have pushed to add social determinants of health data to that list. But what are social determinants, and why are they so important?
Here, we’ll take a look at what social determinants of health are and why incorporating the tracking of these health data points in EHRs can make huge improvements to a patient’s overall care and outcome.
Social determinants of health, also known as SDOH, are conditions in the environments in which people live their lives that affect the outcomes and risks associated for any individual patient.
Essentially, these factors look at the way a person lives and the environment in which they live, because each has an undeniable impact on their health and their ability to improve it. Some prominent examples of SDOH include the quality of care someone is able to receive based on the amount of money they make, the quality of water and air in their neighborhood, and the quality of the food they have access to.
Although many healthcare providers have been hesitant to include these nontraditional health markers into EHRs, the evidence linking patient health to SDOHs has become more obvious in recent years and with the onset and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the industry is experiencing a huge obstacle in its efforts toward SDOH implementation in EHRs: In order for medical staff to fully utilize these vital data points in patient care, they must be accurately captured and integrated into the patient’s EHR, and interoperability and access must improve.
A growing body of research indicates that this integration is crucial in providing the best quality of care for patients. In fact, a study conducted in 2014 showed that variables such as employment and income have a direct and significant effect on the health of adults with type 2 diabetes.
Providers use information extracted from social determinants of health like these for clinical decision-making and to uncover the source of major health issues.
Additionally, integrated SDOH data in the EHR will allow for future interoperability improvements. Doctors and other care providers will be able to access SDOH data for their patients more easily, therefore improving the level of care they can provide.
Researchers and providers are currently grappling with ways to screen patients for these social health factors and incorporate this data into their care, but the success of this movement all comes down to whether or not advances in healthcare technology will support these efforts.
As an award-winning provider of healthcare IT solutions, ChartLogic was one of the first companies to develop EHR technology — and we continue to take huge strides in delivering optimal patient care today.
Some of our latest improvements include ePrescribe for EHRs, meaningful patient portal features, telehealth, and automated Collection Center technology. By improving the user experience for the healthcare providers that use our software, patient health and the quality of care they receive improves, as well.