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How SDOH Impact Preventative Care


For Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), success hinges on a fundamental principle: keeping patients healthy while minimizing overall healthcare costs. Value-based care models, the cornerstone of ACOs, prioritize preventative care as a key strategy to achieve these goals. It’s estimated that only 8% of Americans undergo routine preventive screenings, highlighting a significant gap in care. However, the effectiveness of preventative care goes beyond simply scheduling checkups and screenings. Understanding the social factors impacting a patient’s health, known as Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), is crucial for maximizing the impact of preventative care and promoting health equity.

The Power of Proactive Health: Why Preventative Care Matters

Preventative care flips the script on healthcare. Instead of reacting to illness, it aims to identify and address potential health issues before they escalate. This proactive approach offers a multitude of benefits for both patients and healthcare organizations:

The SDOH Challenge: Barriers to Preventative Care

While the benefits of preventative care are clear, not everyone has equal access to these services. Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) – factors like income, education, access to healthy food and transportation, and safe living conditions – significantly impact a person’s ability to prioritize preventative care

Lets explore the stories of Julie, John, and Sarah to better understand how SDOH impacts preventative care.  

Meet Julie

Julie is a 42-year-old single mother of two who works long hours and struggles to afford healthy food for her family. Due to her busy schedule, scheduling preventive care appointments like mammograms and annual checkups feels like a luxury she can’t afford. 

Julie’s limited access to affordable, healthy food increases her risk of developing diet-related chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. In addition, her busy schedule and family responsibilites prevent her from attending preventative screenings, potentially delaying diagnoses and treatment.

Meet John

John is a 68-year-old man who recently retired. He lives alone and struggles with feelings of isolation and loneliness. He has a family history of heart disease but hasn’t been to the doctor for a checkup in several years.

John’s lack of social support can negatively impact his mental health and overall well-being. Skipping preventive care screenings increases his risk of developing heart disease undetected.

Meet Sarah

Sarah is a 28-year-old busy professional with limited knowledge about preventative care options. She doesn’t understand the importance of screenings like Pap smears or the different types of vaccinations she may need.

Sarah’s lack of health literacy can lead to delays or missed opportunities for crucial preventative care services.

While the stories mentioned above are just examples, they highlight the real-life situations many face. According to the Social Needs in America survey, 28 percent of Americans experienced a barrier to health in the past year due to a social need, with 21 percent prioritizing paying for food or rent over seeing a doctor or getting medication. SDOH can create a cycle of health disparity, where individuals facing social challenges are more susceptible to chronic diseases, making preventative care even more crucial for them.

Addressing SDOH for Preventative Care Success

For ACOs to effectively leverage preventative care as a cornerstone of their strategy, they need to go beyond simply encouraging annual checkups. They must identify and address the specific health barriers their patient population faces at the individual level. This requires a thorough understanding of the SDOH that might impact their patients’ ability to prioritize preventative care.

By identifying the health barriers specific to their patient population, ACOs can craft an actionable strategy that addresses these challenges and encourages patients to prioritize preventative care. Here are some potential approaches:

Investing in Prevention Pays Off

Prioritizing preventative care and addressing SDOH is not just about improving patient outcomes; it’s a sound financial strategy for ACOs. By investing in proactive healthcare, ACOs can achieve several key benefits:

Ultimately, prioritizing preventative care and addressing SDOH is not just good practice; it’s a strategic imperative for ACOs thriving in the value-based care landscape. By investing in preventive measures and addressing the social barriers that hinder access to these services, ACOs can create a win-win situation. Patients benefit from improved health outcomes and a more proactive approach to managing their well-being, while ACOs achieve financial sustainability and contribute to a healthier overall community. As the healthcare industry shifts towards value-based care, addressing social determinants of health and prioritizing prevention will be key to the success of ACOs.

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