Two weeks ago, I attended the Health Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) 2021 Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was an incredible gathering of great minds and innovators from healthcare and technology across the country.
On the first day of HIMSS, our President Jerry Shultz was interviewed by HIMSSTV anchor Kate Milliken about what Lightbeam does, how we have evolved as a company since our founding in 2012, and the challenges we are currently facing—especially as the pandemic is ongoing.
He asserted how at this time in 2021, we are at a perfect convergence of three realities:
- The relationships between physicians and patients are dramatically changing; rarely do patients keep the same “family” doctor for decades; instead, they now pursue a more consumer-based and episodic form of care
- The shift to value-based reimbursement is becoming generational, and fee-for-service is fading further and further into the past
- The rise of new technology, including wearable devices, has made it possible to surveil from afar and make home the new point of care
With these realities, we see new challenges. Nowadays, patients prioritize convenience, but they have also come to expect quality and a sense of personal investment from their providers. This sense of investment can only be made possible with technology—but there is a caveat.
Additional data streams and alerts from telemedicine and remote patient monitoring (RPM) create a greater sense of fatigue for providers. Data ingestion is an ongoing challenge, but it holds the key to positively engaging patients and reducing costs. Moreover, data needs to go further, especially in terms of social determinants of health (SDOH).
Health IT Solutions Must Focus on Social Determinants Data
The concept of SDOH has been a frequent topic of conversation in the space for a while now. However, it is an incredible shift that helps us view the whole patient clearer than ever before, seeing the different stressors or disparities in their lives that determine whether they seek care. COVID-19, unsurprisingly, widened this gap significantly. Editor-in-Chief of Medical Economics, L. Allen Dobson Jr., MD, FAAFP, said perfectly that:
“The question before us now is, do we have the national courage, compassion, leadership, and unity to begin to address the core issues underlying this problem of equity?”
When discussing social determinants of health, it should be about meeting someone where they are—the conditions of the environment where they are born, where they live, learn, work, play, and worship. These factors can affect their health, quality of life, and physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
These factors, together and individually, may lower or elevate someone’s risks, improve or worsen health and personal outcomes, or contribute to widening health disparities.
While pursuing my undergraduate degree in West Philadelphia, I completed clinical rotations and research projects with inner-city residents, children, and programs. As students, we were met with devastating and challenging episodes of health disparity that have stuck with me and my heart. Later, as a practicing pediatric critical care nurse, I worked in an urban children’s hospital where I witnessed the realities of poverty, familial stress, gun violence, abuse, and malnourishment.
These experiences only add more passion for encouraging the inclusion of SDOH data in public health strategies and crafting initiatives around targeting SDOH in communities. Ingesting SDOH data can open doors to the most precise care coordination beyond diagnosable conditions like mental illnesses.
Fortunately, there are data sources that can reveal nutritional inequities, financial disparities, and additional home or community stressors, among others. This data allows providers to find the “needles in the haystack,” the golden nuggets that immediately let a care manager know that this patient is at a higher risk for serious health consequences.
Health promotion is not enough. A value-based care organization is only as healthy as the community it serves. Technology must be a part of the solution when it comes to confronting social determinants of health.
As I reflect on Kate and Jerry’s conversation, it cannot be minimized just how vitally important our work is. We are not only collectively working towards saving the overburdened healthcare system, but we are also closing gaps and reducing disparities through innovative, diligent health care services, and that is noble work.
Explore SDOH and Care Management in the Lightbeam Education Center
Success Story: Compassionate Care Management in a Moment of Need
Shelley Davis, MSN, RNC, CCM is Lightbeam’s Clinical Engagement Manager.