News: AHIMA survey shows nearly 80% of healthcare organizations collect SDOH but report challenges

CDI Strategies - Volume 17, Issue 8

In a new survey commissioned by the American Health Management Association (AHIMA), data showed that nearly 80% of healthcare organizations are collecting data on social determinants of health (SDOH), or non-clinical factors that affect one's health including family and home life, education, employment, and food insecurity. Of those collecting SDOH data, 78% of respondents reported gathering it through their electronic health record (EHR), with 44% tracking housing insecurity, 38% tracking economic stability, 36% tracking at food insecurity, 28% tracking transportation, and 17% tracking education, HealthLeaders reported.

“The effective collection, coding, and use of SDOH data are vital to improving health and healthcare outcomes,” said Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, AHIMA's chief executive officer, in a press release. “Health information professionals play a pivotal role in how SDOH data is collected, shared, and ultimately used to improve health and healthcare outcomes.”

Despite the high percentage of organizations reporting SDOH, providers face difficulties standardizing and integrating data. The survey drew from 2,600 AHIMA members and others, who cited a lack of training on how to collect, code, and use the data they have. There’s also a long way to go in adding data; researchers found that less than 2% of the claims data of Medicaid and Medicare enrollees currently includes SDOH, and though health systems have started collecting data they aren’t often integrating it in to the EHR.

“The fact that the data may be incomplete, unstructured, and/or buried in inconsistent fields—such as health concerns, goals, social history, etc.—may limit the integration of this information into the EHR,” the study reported. “Broader collaboration among key stakeholders across the health care sector is a critical step to improved collection of SDOH data and ultimately using this data to improve health outcomes. Policy can serve as a crucial lever to advance collaboration between stakeholders with the ultimate goal of improving the collection, coding, and use of clinically-relevant SDOH data to improve health outcomes.”

AHIMA recommended that the HHS lay out what SDOH data should be collected by healthcare organizations, offer financial incentives for prioritizing the data and financial support for training healthcare providers to collect, code, and use SDOH. Lastly, AHIMA recommended funding, technical resources, and infrastructure be provided by the federal government to help providers use SDOH in coordination with other organizations.

Editor’s note: To read HealthLeaders’ coverage of this story, click here. To read the AHIMA survey results, click here.

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