Unraveling the Stumbling Blocks of Collecting Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Data

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Data

In today’s healthcare landscape, achieving health equity and delivering patient-centered care requires a deeper understanding of the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Data. These social and economic factors play a significant role in shaping individuals’ well-being and health outcomes. However, effectively collecting and utilizing SDOH data remains challenging for many healthcare organizations. In this episode of our podcast series on SDOH, two industry thought leaders shed light on the stumbling blocks associated with collecting and utilizing SDOH data.

The Challenge of Comprehensive Data Collection

Dr. Fauzia Khan, CMO of Persivia Inc., and Dr. Shannon Decker, Principal at VBC One, discuss the importance of collecting comprehensive SDOH data to understand patients’ complete picture. While approximately 80% of providers are capturing SDOH data, ensuring that data collection goes beyond capturing just one aspect is necessary. Standardizing data collection processes and screening tools at the point of care can help gather relevant data. It is crucial to bridge the technology with the human element to have meaningful conversations with patients and capture their SDOH information accurately.

Bridging the Gap between Data Collection and Utilization

More than merely collecting SDOH data is required; organizations must derive actionable insights from it. Dr. Decker emphasizes transforming data into narratives that inform care decisions. Making SDOH data consumable requires effective integration into health IT systems. This integration ensures that the data is readily available and easily interpretable, enabling healthcare professionals to understand patients’ social constraints better and tailor their care accordingly.

Cost Management and Utilization Patterns

SDOH data plays a crucial role in managing costs and optimizing healthcare utilization. Dr. Decker highlights that behavioral or mental health concerns drive many primary care visits. By understanding patients’ social circumstances, healthcare providers can redirect them to more appropriate care settings, minimizing unnecessary emergency room visits and associated costs. Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Data can facilitate the identification of community-based resources and support systems that better address patients’ needs while reducing financial burdens.

Closing the Loop with Community Organizations

While organizations strive to connect patients with community-based organizations that address their social needs, closing the loop and ensuring effective referrals remain challenging. Dr. Fauzia emphasizes the importance of incentivizing organizations to invest in SDOH data management. Long-term investment, cost management, and improved clinical outcomes incentivize organizations to prioritize SDOH data collection. Leveraging technological tools and seamless referral systems can enhance collaboration with community organizations, ensuring patients receive the appropriate support and resources.


Addressing the stumbling blocks of collecting SDOH data is crucial for achieving health equity and delivering patient-centered care. Comprehensive data collection, bridging the gap between data collection and utilization, managing costs, and strengthening collaborations with community organizations are critical steps in leveraging the power of SDOH data. By overcoming these challenges, healthcare organizations can gain valuable insights into patients’ social circumstances, tailor care plans, and improve overall health outcomes. Understanding and addressing social determinants of health is a nice-to-have and a critical aspect of providing equitable and comprehensive healthcare to all individuals.