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83% of Acute Care Hospitals Engage in Some SDOH Data Collection

Despite a known link between addressing social needs and improved health outcomes, just 54 percent of acute care hospitals engage in routine SDOH data collection.

An ONC analysis shows that 83 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals participate in some social determinants of health (SDOH) data collection. Still, challenges related to routine screening data collection exist.

SDOH specifically refers to the environments in which individuals live, work, and play. When these social needs, such as transportation, housing, and food security, remain unaddressed, they can shape the health outcomes of patients.

In light of this, hospitals are uniquely positioned to mitigate these social risk factors by screening for social needs, assisting in care transitions, and linking to social service organizations. This is where the collection of SDOH data becomes crucial.

The report, utilizing data from the 2022 American Hospital Association (AHA) Information Technology (IT) supplement, delves into the extent to which non-federal acute care hospitals collect SDOH data.

The report unveils that while some hospitals do engage in SDOH data collection, routine collection isn't as widespread, with an overall rate of 54 percent. This figure is even lower amongst resource-limited hospitals, such as small, rural, critical access, independent hospitals, emphasizing potential disparities in care for high-risk populations.

The way in which healthcare providers collect data on patients' health-related social needs has significant implications for data sharing and utility. Data captured in a standardized format can ease data sharing with other providers for treatment purposes. However, it can be challenging to extract and exchange relevant information captured in free-text notes or non-electronic methods.

The findings showed almost three-quarters of hospitals have implemented electronic tools for structured screening to collect data on social needs.

On the other hand, 29 percent utilize diagnosis codes for the same purpose. The hospitals using screening tools predominantly rely on a mix of custom , externally established , or combined tools.

Furthermore, data was not only internally sourced. About 60 percent of hospitals electronically received social needs data from external sources, with 46 percent receiving such data through health information exchanges (HIEs).

The main uses for the collected data include informing clinical decision-making, supporting discharge planning, and facilitating referrals to social service organizations.

“While most hospitals collect internal data on patients’ health-related social needs, other health care organizations, social service organizations, and HIE organizations are critical sources of social needs data for newly admitted patients, especially in lower resourced settings that have been shown to more likely use HIEs to enable exchange,” ONC officials wrote in a HealthITBuzz blog.

HIEs such as Maryland’s CRISP offer an expanded suite of tools and services that go beyond data aggregation and quality improvement. These platforms assist healthcare providers in screening and accessing patients' past social needs data.

In response to the need for improved SDOH data collection and use, federal entities have implemented measures such as the Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) program.

“Social drivers of health are upstream factors that contribute to individual risk factors and differences in health-related social needs. The addition of these new measures may help ensure that a minimum set of data elements are routinely collected, which will help facilitate data exchange while enabling hospitals to systematically collect patient-level data to support whole-person care.

Although screening is a vital first step in understanding patients' health-related social needs, additional emphasis is required on the effective utilization of collected data, considering that not all patients with positive screenings for social needs are successfully connected to the required resources.

To address this, ONC released a Social Determinants of Health Information Exchange Toolkit. It provides a roadmap for the implementation of IT infrastructure for SDOH data exchange and encourages the adoption of standards like HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources.

“Looking ahead, more work is needed to capture social needs data in an actionable way so that this information can be used to support shared decision making and address social needs, with the ultimate goal of improving individual and population health.”

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