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September 13, 2021

Health Equity in America

CoverMe Team
Various medical aids such as stethoscopes, capsule sheets, a pad with a paper checklist, test tubes with blood, injection, weighing scales and others surrounded by medical experts and happy customers.

Providers are beginning to embrace what patients have known all along - that achieving wellness requires a holistic approach. Whether it’s health maintenance or disease management, a patient’s condition can be drastically improved if there’s an overall, comprehensive program that’s tailored to holistically meet the health support needs of a patient.

In order for us as a society to influence health equity, we first need to understand individual social determinants of health and the role each plays in the bigger picture.

What are the social determinants of health?

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are essentially the non-medical factors that influence overall health outcomes, including the different conditions into which individuals are born, live, grow, thrive, work, and age. Here are examples of the social determinants of health, all of which can influence health equity:

  • Early childhood development
  • Education
  • Income
  • Job stability
  • Work life conditions
  • Food shortages
  • Housing and basic life supporting amenities
  • Environment
  • Social support networks
  • Access to affordable healthcare

Studies show that social determinants can be even more important than medical care or lifestyle choices when it comes to influencing health. In fact, studies published by the World Health Organization show that SDOH play a huge role in wellness - accounting for 30-55% of health outcomes.

How are the healthcare systems addressing, and regulating social determinants of health?

Whenever possible, healthcare organizations and frontline care providers should aim to connect patients who have social needs to suitable government, community, and social service resources. The key for healthcare providers is to establish channels to the resources to better assist in connecting patients to programs.

Incorporation of SDOH data in program eligibility considerations can also help identify and address a patient’s unmet social, economical, or financial needs and drastically improve the care team’s ability to improve a patient’s overall health outcome.

Addressing social determinants to achieve health equity

Addressing social determinants is vital, as it is key to achieving health equity. But in order to connect patients to programs, providers need access to resources, information, and options to help address SDOH issues that are recognized in their patients.

Patient friendly approaches to discussing SDOH should be incorporated into standard eligibility and enrollment procedures. Creating thoughtful conversation opportunities with patients facing social challenges can open the door to learning about relevant history, offering advice, discussing local community support programs, and making the connection to appropriate services.

Addressing social health determinants helps reduce hospital readmission rates

An analysis by AmeriHealth Caritas revealed that Medicaid members that receive SDOH-related community-based services experienced a whopping 26% drop in inpatient hospital readmittance rates.

In the last quarter of 2018, AmeriHealth Caritas analyzed the outcomes of nearly 1,000 individuals that had one or more chronic illnesses, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. The analysis also included the utilization rates of hospitals, claims, and responses to questionnaires about the various social determinants of health.

These results showed that food insecurity, health literacy, and lack of transportation to healthcare facilities were drastically more prevalent among high-risk patients, with 34% of patients reporting SDOH-related support needs.

The survey data revealed that when providers connected patients with community programs as part of their overall clinical program, the patients experienced a 26% drop in hospital readmissions, and a 27% reduction in inpatient length of stay.

These patients also experienced a 10% drop in emergency hospital visits, a 22% reduction in potentially preventable admissions, and a 12% drop in potentially avoidable emergency hospital visits.

Finding Health Equity Partners to Improve Health Outcomes

CoverMe’s Healthcare Marketplace gives providers easy online access to a gateway of programs and finds real-time financial and community coverage solutions for self-pay, uninsured, and underinsured patients. We are committed to helping providers connect patients and programs - and helping America improve health equity in the lives of Americans.

You can learn more about CoverMe’s Healthcare Marketplace here

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