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Newly released metrics analyze digital access to health care

Socially Determined, a Washington, DC-based startup, has released a new metric to help measure the role of digital access in medical outcomes. This builds on the company’s existing portfolio of tools for connecting socioeconomic metrics to health care. More accurate, timely, and granular information is helping insurance providers, hospitals, and government organizations identify and rectify bottlenecks to better health programs.

Leading medical institutions worldwide, including the U.S. CDC, World Health Organization, and the National Health Service in England, have identified social determinants of health (SDOH) as a critical factor in the effectiveness of new health care initiatives. The company’s SocialScape platform provides a digital twin reflecting clinical, utilization, social, and economic factors on health outcomes at the community and individual level.

Socially Determined cofounder and president Ryan Bosch, MD, FACP, told VentureBeat, “This enhanced visibility empowers organizational decision-makers to act with confidence and elevate social risk to the same level as clinical and business risks.”

Utilizing metrics to bring access and affordability to health care

Bosch cofounded the company in 2017 after years of working as a chief medical informatics officer for various hospitals. Medical informatics researchers were starting to realize the outsize impact of social risk on health outcomes. He also recognized there was an analytics void in the marketplace on social risk identification and measurement.

The company has focused on proven and defined SDOH, such as economics, food, housing, transportation, and health literacy. Customers include health care payers, health care providers, life science companies, government organizations, and others.

For example, one sizable integrated health provider in the Midwest fine-tuned its existing SDOH initiatives to reach the communities and populations that would benefit most. Initial results included a 10% reduction in potentially preventable inpatient admissions, a 30% reduction in low-acuity emergency room visits, and a 5% increase in primary and preventive care visits.

These companies typically implement a four-step process as part of a social analytics program: identify social risk; quantify the impact of this risk on related business opportunities; prioritize intervention actions, and objectively measure the impact across key business metrics.

Existing metrics have analyzed income, household size, vehicle ownership rates, location of healthy and unhealthy food, education level, homeownership, and more. The newly released Digital Landscape metrics analyze the role that digital access plays in healthcare. This plays a growing role in the success of new health services and user experiences that have ballooned in the wake of the pandemic, such as web portals, chatbots, and mobile applications. “Before committing valuable resources or relying on any of these services, organizations must discern if their target market or populations will be able to access, afford, and use them,” Bosch said.

One key goal of the new metric was to evaluate the intersection of accessibility, affordability, and digital literacy to ensure organizations completely understand the barriers to success for any new or existing tech-enabled initiative. Similar measurements focus exclusively on individual drivers of digital equity, such as access and cost.

Existing hurdles for revamping health care

But one concern is that these other digital equity metrics only reflect part of the issues affecting the digital adoption of health services. For example, if a person has broadband access and can afford to pay for it, that does not guarantee they know how to use digital resources. Also, certain populations are uncomfortable with online services and are reluctant to turn to the internet for things they have always done in a brick-and-mortar sense.

“That has a tremendous impact on the success of digital initiatives, which is why we take it into account along with access and affordability,” Bosch said.

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