5 steps to strategic SDOH integration

As part of a growing body of standards for healthcare, the ability for providers to access and understand the social determinants of the health of their patients to raise and achieve equity requires enough steps that the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT created an SDOH toolkit for communities.

ONC says it built the toolkit, which is designed for collaborating community groups and healthcare providers, around “community readiness and stewardship, policy, financing, user support and learning networks.”

The Georgia Health Information Network, or GaHIN, has been hyper focused on creating the collaboration and structure needed to build trust and security in a new era of data exchange that expands beyond clinical data and aims for whole-person care.

At HIMSS24, which is scheduled for March 11-15 in Orlando, Shirelle King, program manager at the GaHIN, and Evelyn Gallego, the chief executive officer and founder of EMI Advisors, will explain how as an HIE, GaHIN was well positioned to address the challenges of organizing all the pieces that interoperable SDOH data exchange needs.

King and Gallego will share more detail on the HIE’s comprehensive strategy and roadmap during their session, Enhancing Whole-Person Care Through Clinical and Social Data Integration.

Q. How is policy helping to drive a shift to whole-person care?

A. In the last few years policymakers and health experts have realized that achieving better health care outcomes is intrinsically linked to an individual’s SDOH. 

In Georgia, the state’s designated health information exchange, Georgia Health Information Network, is leading the charge to break down the data siloes that exist between (and sometimes within) community organizations, state agencies and healthcare providers. With deep expertise in building highly secure channels among private and public entities to facilitate the exchange of patient data, GaHIN has the knowledge, technical skills and connections to achieve success in exchanging social care data. 

Q. How can an HIE enhance existing data infrastructure beyond clinical data exchange? 

A. HIEs are uniquely positioned to bring together healthcare and social care organizations. Due to their role as health IT data aggregators, HIEs already have the tools needed to standardize and securely share information. 

The challenge becomes creating a wall between medical and SDOH data, allowing providers to see relevant social data about their patients while isolating personal health information from social care agencies. 

Making SDOH data easily accessible supports health equity while reducing the burden on community organizations. For GaHIN, that meant upgrading our health technology platform and adding a separate social care integration platform. Because both platforms are from the same vendor, we’re assured of interoperability. 

Q. What are some approaches data networks are undertaking to foster SDOH information exchange across their participating clinical and community-based provider groups? 

A. GaHIN undertook a five-step process to launch its social care data initiative. 

First, we talked with various healthcare, social service and community organizations to ascertain their needs and concerns. 

The next step was upgrading our existing technology infrastructure to support data exchange and integration efforts. Third, we implemented a comprehensive data governance framework to address data ownership, consent, privacy and security concerns. 

After that, we initiated a pilot project to test functionality and effectiveness. Our final step will be to scale and expand our platform throughout the state. At each stage, we receive feedback from both healthcare and social care stakeholders. 

Q. Which trust-enhancing data exchange strategies will you dive into during the session?

A. By engaging, collaborating and integrating with state agencies and social care organizations, GaHIN is building trust and aligning our partners with the initiative’s mission, purpose, and outcomes. 

For example, we are fostering engagement by consistently meeting with representatives of social care entities to gather their feedback and strategic guidance. During our session, we will share our comprehensive strategy plan, which outlines objectives, milestones, timelines and key performance indicators. We will also share our use cases and how we support outreach efforts to social care organizations to gain their support and meaningful participation. 

The HIMSS24 session, Enhancing Whole-Person Care Through Clinical and Social Data Integration, is scheduled for March 12, from11-11:30 a.m. in Room W307A. Learn more and register.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: afox@himss.org

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

The 2024 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition takes place on March 11-15, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. Learn more and register.

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