Datapalooza and The AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference tackle data and social determinants of health

While the annual Datapalooza conference continued to focus on exploring how the health care industry is leveraging data to improve the physician/consumer care experience, AcademyHealth’s National Health Policy Conference focused on the nation’s health policy agenda.

Several leaders and subject matter experts from Humana spoke at both conferences, primarily focusing on how to address social determinants of health (SDoH) in order to slow chronic disease progression. Humana has made progress in addressing the social determinants of health. In 2019, the company scaled social determinants of health screenings to over 1 million, more than double the number of screenings in 2018, and connected those in need to community resources.

Jennifer Spear kicked off Tuesday by speaking on a panel titled “Understanding How Medicare Advantage Plans Can Address Social Determinants of Health.” The panel was moderated by David Meyers, Brown University School of Public Health, and focused on research findings based on interviews with 32 Medicare Advantage plans that made decisions to offer supplemental benefits to address social determinants of health. Lucy Theilheimer, Meals on Wheels America, was also a panelist.

During the panel, Jennifer spoke about Humana’s work on social determinants of health and how it led to the Humana/Meals on Wheels partnership. “We focused early on food insecurity due to a high prevalence of Unhealthy Days,” she said. “We found that food insecure members we were screening had twice as many Unhealthy Days as their food secure counterparts…One of the reasons that we focused our early work in the physician’s office was that we knew how important it was to be able to impact the member holistically, whether it’s in the physician’s office, in their home or working with their Humana care team.”

Jennifer also said that when it comes to social determinants of health, it is essential to “understand the population, and that takes robust data collection.” She also said it is important to “have a better understanding of how this all comes together…None of this is happening in a vacuum. No one is just food insecure or transportation insecure. There are a lot of different things impacting each of these.”

Jennifer said a customized approach is important, since “every community is different. Every market that we have is so different. You don’t have the same types of members and preferences in South Florida that you do in Louisiana, and the same is true for other communities.”

The importance of a localized approach to tackling social determinants of health was also a focus of a joint panel titled “Partnerships for Effectively Addressing Social Determinants in High Risk Populations,” in which Dr. Andrew Renda participated. The panel was moderated by Nancy Delew, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

During the discussion, Dr. Renda spoke about how Humana analyzed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings SDoH data alongside the company’s use of the CDC “Healthy Days” population health measure. That early analysis led to segmentation, predictive modeling and natural language processing to gain insights into how social determinants of health were impacting Humana’s Medicare Advantage population.

While Dr. Renda stressed the importance of being able to measure quality of life, he said resources in the community were essential to success. “We have a lot of data, but you can’t design a population health strategy from an ivory tower,” he said.  “You have to have boots on the ground, and you have to engage local stakeholders to figure out what those issues are.”  He also stressed the importance of integrating SDoH into clinical care models by adding, “We need to start treating social determinants of health like clinical gaps in care. They are critical to health outcomes.”

Dr. Renda also said, “We have to start thinking about social needs and community organizations as being health related so that we can start designing a strategy that addresses both people who already have chronic conditions and those who have social needs that put them at risk for developing chronic conditions.”

In addition, Amit Parulekar participated in a discussion titled “HDP Rapid Fire: Innovative Methodologies and Approaches to Leverage Data Today,” which also featured subject matter experts from Mathematica, Booz Allen Hamilton and IMPAQ International, LLC.

“Data plays a huge rule in treating the ‘whole person,’ and social determinants of health data is becoming increasingly important,” said Amit, who also argued that “population health programs need a holistic view, by taking into account both the medical and social needs of the person.”

Amit also said, “Since social determinants play such a huge role in total health of the individual, there is a compelling reason for considering social risk factors along with clinical risk factors into future population-based payment reimbursement models.” He also spoke on how Humana’s data analytics transforms fragmented data sources into an integrated Social Health Record at the person level.

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