Jessica DaMassa

The Business Case for Social Determinants of Health


How can understanding the underlying social risks impacting patient populations improve health outcomes AND save health plans some serious per-member-per-month costs? You’re probably familiar with the concept of ‘Social Determinants of Health’ (SDOH) but Dr. Trenor Williams and his team at health startup Socially Determined are building a business around it.

By looking at data around what Trenor calls ‘the Significant 7’ social determinants (social isolation, food insecurity, housing, transportation, health literacy, and crime & violence) he and his team are working to help health plans intervene with their most vulnerable populations and bring down costs.

What kind of data is Socially Determined looking at? Everything from publicly available data on housing prices and air quality, to commercial datasets on buying preferences and more. Plus, with help from their health plan partners, they’re using clinical and claims data to create a complete picture of health care spend, utilization, and outcomes.

Trenor walks through some very specific examples in this interview to help illustrate his point. In one, Socially Determined was able to identify how Medicaid could better help asthmatics manage their asthma AND save a thousand dollars per affected member each month. Another project in Ohio identified that a mother with a history of housing eviction was 40% more likely to give birth to a baby requiring NICU care – opening up myriad opportunities for early intervention and the potential to positively impact the lifetime health of both mother and child.

As healthcare continues to realize its ‘data play’ – and look beyond the typical data sets available to healthcare companies – the opportunities for real and meaningful impact are tremendous. Listen in to hear more about what Trenor sees as the new opportunity for Social Determinants of Health.

Filmed at AHIP’s Consumer Experience & Digital Health Forum in December 2018.

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3 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing this resource. This is a fascinating assessment on the state of healthcare and I will share this with the Socially Determined team.

  2. The “significant 7” represent the outcomes from the fundamental disruptive processes that drive the social determinants of poor health. Its true that improved housing leads to improved health outcomes. But these health outcomes are related not only to the quality of the housing itself but also to the family traditions that occur within it, the Extended Family that modulates these family traditions, and the character of its community and surrounding neighborhood.

    I would refer Dr. Williams and his SOCIALLY DETERMINED startup to THE CAPABILITY TRAP. See Erik Landry and John Sterman, from Harvard and MIT, paper below:

    Hint: It describes a means to think about the ocean of our nation’s health and the futility occurring within the ship of its sinking healthcare industry. See pages 1-4 and 34-39.