Every day, a new term is introduced in the healthcare industry. Recently, researchers at UCSF described the need for a new field that is dedicated to supporting the clinical use of social determinants of health data. Western European concepts of social informatics are going strong in the Scanvadian countries and the UK. The oldest concept of social informatics was initiated in the USSR by A.V. Sokolov and his colleagues in the 1970s.
As the pandemic has thrown a harsh light on healthcare disparities, with COVID-19, more attention has been targeted on the social determinants of health. A major challenge that comes here is to manage multiple data and to integrate them with clinical care. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association described the challenges and opportunities for the discipline of health data innovation. The researchers explain,
"While data on social conditions, such as lack of access to adequate food, housing, and transportation, may be obtained during clinical encounters, they can also be derived from nonclinical sources such as local and national government datasets.”
They further added,
“Once these data are incorporated into the healthcare system, they facilitate the NASEM report’s recommendation of increasing the health sector’s awareness of social risks of patients and populations."
According to reports,
"Regardless of their source, social data are neither uniformly collected nor commonly captured in EHRs in a structured format. As the availability of social data rapidly increases in response to the new policy and payment models that incentivize these different awareness strategies, there will be new opportunities to integrate these data into EHRs and implement social care interventions that address identified risks."
The UCSF Researchers Said Acting on Social Determinants of Health in Clinical Settings Has Become Better
The researchers revealed,
“As evidence of the associations between social factors and health outcomes continues to mount, capturing and acting on social determinants of health in clinical settings has never been more relevant." “Developing this dedicated subfield of informatics – which we term social informatics – is important to drive research that informs how to approach the unique data, interoperability, execution, and ethical challenges involved in integrating social and medical care."
The UCSF researchers have targeted 5 A’s that play a crucial role in information strategies and IT.
The healthcare providers have identified social risks in patients. The social informatics will work on sorting the collection, storage, and retrieval of SDOH information.
In the healthcare sector, care and treatment decisions might shift to address social barriers. Therefore, it is important to interact with “clinical and population health tools within EHRs to incorporate SDOH information into care activities. Improving EHR functionalities to prompt care actions based on social risks."
The healthcare organizations and systems search for ways to connect fellow patients with community resources. Therefore, EHR workflows should be honed to receive social assistance that is offered to the patients.
The health experts understand better to facilitate partnerships that depend on the facilitation of linkages between health systems and community-based organizations.
The healthcare organizations promote policies to address health and social needs and are the key to retrieve population SDOH data to better inform policy decisions.
The report concluded,
“Creating this new subfield of informatics is necessary to drive research that informs how to approach the unique interoperability, execution, and ethical challenges involved in incorporating social information into health care. Social informatics will be a new tool in the toolbox for better integrating social and medical care in ways that can improve individual and population health and health equity."