Equity is arguably the most important issue facing healthcare providers today.
Non-white patients tend to have higher rates of certain chronic diseases and often experience more social and community barriers to healthy lifestyles. We also know that patients with limited English skills are less likely to have positive interactions with health systems and less likely to adhere to recommended treatments.
How prevalent is this problem? A survey by McKinsey & Co of consumers illustrated that inequities exist across all types of insurance coverage and that 48% of respondents reported at least one unmet social need.
You are probably already collecting some Race, Ethnicity, and Language (REaL) information, but incomplete data makes it more difficult for providers to create meaningful population health management plans that address the specific needs of their communities.
Advanced analytics can show the impact of each unmet social need in different populations, but the environment to collect and analyze that kind of information and integrate it with community-level data does not happen overnight. LRS recommends taking the following steps related to data to better identify social determinants of health and develop programs to help those lacking basic needs:
Roll out screening practices that reach patients when it’s most meaningful
Screening questions are becoming more commonplace during yearly checkups, but they could be included during other impactful times, such as during Emergency Department visits or before a discharge. Some patients may like to report these issues themselves to avoid any social stigmas, so technology platforms that encourage self-reporting are a must.
Integrate screening into more workflows
With providers’ time being gobbled by more administrative tasks than ever, needs reporting should be fast. At the EHR level, screening templates could be added so that information gathering occurs during the registration process
Define measures for improvement
Select measures that tie back to the most impactful strategic KPIs. For example, providers could work to standardize the processes for screening unmet basic needs and referrals. They could then understand what percent of screened patients who accepted referrals saw a decrease in unmet needs.
Link population health to value
Providers should measure KPIs and improvements, but also track value. Doing so guarantees that activities and programs are matched to value for the provider/system and for the patient. When linked back to value, it could help providers understand when to continue with certain approaches or to pivot to new programs, community partners, or referral and support structures.
Data plays a key role in helping providers determine and anticipate the needs of vulnerable patients. With the right processes and data platforms in place, you’ll collect patient need data in real-time and share it with your organization’s support and referral teams, and community resources.
If you are interested in learning more about how LRS can help you use all of your data to build AI and analytical applications that drive better results, please contact us to request a meeting. Not there yet? We also offer strategic roadmapping services and can help you build an information architecture that will support your current and future analytical applications.
About the author
Steve Cavolick is a Senior Solution Architect with LRS IT Solutions. With over 20 years of experience in enterprise business analytics and information management, Steve is 100% focused on helping customers find value in their data to drive better business outcomes. Using technologies from best-of-breed vendors, he has created solutions for the retail, telco, manufacturing, distribution, financial services, gaming, and insurance industries.