How smartphones, credit card transactions, social media can help collect social determinants of health info

Although hospitals don't actively collect information on social determinants of health, there has been a shift in providers investing in population health management strategies, the Harvard Business Review reports.

Around 83 percent of family physicians support the Institute of Medicine's 2014 recommendation to collect sociodemographic, psychological and behavioral information from patients, although only 20 percent say they have the time to do so, reports Harvard Business Review.

The Harvard Business Review analyzed three alternative means to collect social determinants of health data.

  1. Smartphones: Mobile applications that health systems offer are an easy way for providers to collect information on patients while giving patients the opportunity to book appointments and contact physicians. The apps give insight into patients' location, which can then be cross-referenced to databases that store information on crime and domestic violence as well as grocery store availability.
  1. Credit card transactions: An investigation funded by the Gates Foundation and United Nations Foundation combined credit card records with people's phone calls to identify patterns in socioeconomic behaviors. Now, companies are developing solutions to also detail grocery bills to determine if patients are filling prescriptions, purchasing cigarettes or ordering salads.
  1. Social media: Many adult Facebook and Twitter users said they are willing to share their social media and medical data to connect the information with EHR data for research purposes. New features are also becoming available on social media that allow health systems to more actively engage with patients to answer questions around food insecurity, employment status and physical activity.

These solutions, however, do come with a price: privacy. Harvard Business Review suggests more research be done to determine patients' comfort with giving physicians access to more information.

To access the full report, click here.

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