The Critical Role of Health IT in New SDOH Screening Mandates​

The Critical Role of Health IT in New SDOH Screening Mandates

In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, healthcare organizations must take a unified approach when addressing patients’ social determinants of health (SDOH). This approach is now more crucial than ever, as starting from January 1, 2024, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will mandate the screening of five specific SDOH domains for admitted patients. These domains are as follows:

  1. Food Insecurity

  2. Interpersonal Safety

  3. Housing Insecurity

  4. Transportation Insecurity

  5. Utilities (a newer domain, which falls under a larger driver of financial insecurities)

The decision to emphasize coordination among healthcare settings in tackling SDOH is a response to the growing recognition of the critical impact of social determinants on healthcare outcomes. Studies have shown that SDOH contributes significantly, ranging from 30% to 55%, to patient health outcomes (World Health Organization). One widely cited analysis goes further to suggest that social and economic factors alone determine 40% of both the length and quality of our lives, surpassing clinical care-related factors in influence.

Recognizing the importance of addressing SDOH in healthcare, The Joint Commission, a nonprofit that accredits healthcare organizations, and CMS have incorporated SDOH into their accreditation standards and value-based care programs. This strategic move is anticipated to lead to improved patient health and reduced health disparities over time.

To further this cause, CMS will introduce two inpatient quality reporting measures for SDOH in 2024:

  • Screening for SDOH: This measure will assess the number of patients screened for the five domains of SDOH for individuals aged 18 years or older.

  • Positive rate for SDOH: This measure will track the number of patients who screened positive for any of the five domains of SDOH

As healthcare organizations strive to comply with these new requirements, they must harness the power of health IT screening tools to evaluate a patient’s SDOH. A recent survey conducted by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) revealed that 71% of healthcare leaders are already utilizing an Electronic Health Record (EHR) platform to collect SDOH data. Nevertheless, integrating this data into EHRs remains a prevailing challenge. Often, SDOH data is incomplete, unstructured, or buried in inconsistent fields, such as health concerns, goals, or social history. This hinders its seamless integration into the EHR.

According to AHIMA, “Providers understand the importance and ethical imperative of addressing social needs, but it can lead to burnout if they lack the necessary resources, time, or staffing to identify social needs and connect patients to the required services.” Additionally, there is a pressing need for technology that enables healthcare professionals to make and track referrals efficiently.

To meet these new requirements and elevate patient care, healthcare organizations must invest in robust health IT solutions that empower them to collect, manage, and act upon SDOH data effectively. By doing so, they will not only meet regulatory mandates but, more importantly, make substantial strides in improving patient health and reducing health disparities in the long run.

This is where WellCheck comes in. Our software solutions are customizable, seamlessly enabling our partners to track SDOH data as needed. For example, our partner, St. Mary’s County Health Department, now has the ability to use a digital referral platform that starts with a SDoH assessment, which is amenable for use by community health outreach workers, partner organizations, and self-referrals. The Digital Hub then connects the user with a variety of health department and community-based services depending on the needs indicated.

To learn more about our digital health portal and how it’s supporting local health departments and FQHCs in making an impact, visit https://www.wellcheck.us/digital-health-portal/.

To learn more about WellCheck’s digital assessments for SDOH screening, visit https://www.wellcheck.us/sdoh-screening-mandates/.

To learn more about how we can help you to safely and securely collect SDOH information, complete the form, and a member of our team will be in touch.

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