SDOH: Social Determinants and Healthcare Spending
After kicking off the discussion on how social determinants of health (SDoH) impact long-term healthcare spending, our Director of SDoH and Product Development Tamara Carlton is back to round out the discussion. Now, she’s diving into the surge in healthcare spending, innovation beyond hospital walls, and how transportation impacts overall healthcare costs.
A Surge in Healthcare Costs
As SDoH trends come and go, one trend stays considerably consistent: healthcare costs. Healthcare spending continues to increase yearly, predicted to grow up to 4% in the next five to ten years alone.
Contributing factors like the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in more than 10 million Americans applying for unemployment, as well as contributing to a rise in social and economical determinants. With an overwhelming volume of new Medicaid and Medicare members, current events highlight the need to address healthcare costs that have the potential to lead to economic instability, lack of healthcare access and quality, and other driving determinants.
Trey Sutten, CEO of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, says people’s living situations have a tremendous influence on their overall health, including having reliable transportation that allows them to access the healthcare they need. He says, “social determinants of health are taking a while to catch on with managed care leaders because supporting them is challenging due to cost and regulatory barriers. However, that is changing because they have such a significant impact on health outcomes, which makes social determinants a disruptive trend to watch.” Addressing social determinants ultimately improves health outcomes and drives down the long-term cost of care.
Innovation Beyond Hospital Walls
With technological advances in the medical world coming daily, innovations to address and improve SDoH remain on everyone’s radar. The patient journey, including before, during, and after a hospital visit, should be targeted for potential innovation and efficiencies. Every step of the patient journey can be improved with cost-effective efficiencies, an improved member experience, and so much more that occurs beyond the hospital walls.
John Matthew Douglas, President and Founder of iPressForward LLC says, “social determinant popularity has grown in large part due to its capacity of reducing hospital readmissions, tracking, measuring, and proving whether social determinants have been addressed in real-time, therefore tracking the ‘Whole Patient Journey’ beyond hospital walls.” Innovations such as Personalized Digital Physical Exam Screening (PDPES), or more specifically in MTM’s case, concepts such as our Mobility Direct paratransit eligibility certification platform, work to improve the member experience.
While technological improvements typically come with higher costs, ultimately they achieve end goals of more easily accessible and reliable healthcare options. In the long run, this can drive down long-term costs of care, while also decreasing the impact of social determinants that could negatively affect health outcomes.
How Can Transportation Help?
Access to reliable, affordable transportation allows people to obtain better employment and educational opportunities, attend their medical appointments, and more. A healthy lifestyle starts in homes, schools, and communities, and is frequently predetermined by the social and economic opportunities afforded to people. Members who are low-income are especially at a disadvantage because they often struggle with basic needs like food, employment, shelter, etc., which negatively affects their health and other economic outcomes.
Reliable transportation addresses social determinants head on by connecting millions to healthcare services, events, and opportunities. As we continue to move forward, through industry trends and innovation we can continue to positively address SDoH, develop improvements and solutions that drive down the long term cost of care, and work proactively to supply affordable and reliable transportation to populations in need.