Research studies have consistently shown that social determinants of health (SDOH) account for a significant portion, between 30% to 55%, of health outcomes. Recognizing the profound impact of SDOH on patients' physical and mental health, hospitals, health plans, and federal and state programs are now acknowledging the importance of capturing SDOH data to provide holistic care to patients.
The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that accredits healthcare organizations and programs, has recently taken a crucial step by updating its accreditation standards to include a new element of performance (EP) specifically focused on screening for social determinants of health. This means that healthcare organizations are now required to assess patients' social determinants of health and develop plans to address any identified needs.
Similarly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have also recognized the significance of addressing SDOH. In January 2021, they introduced the Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (CHART) Model, aimed at improving access to high-quality healthcare and addressing social determinants of health, particularly in rural communities. Through this model, CMS aims to support community-driven initiatives, such as providing better access to transportation, housing, and healthy food options.
By incorporating SDOH into their accreditation standards and value-based care programs, both The Joint Commission and CMS are highlighting the importance of addressing SDOH in healthcare. This will likely lead to improved patient health and reduced health disparities over time.
To adhere to The Joint Commission's six elements of performance for SDOH in the 2023 calendar year, healthcare organizations should lay out a comprehensive framework for collecting SDOH data:
For CMS's voluntary reporting of SDOH in the inpatient sphere for the calendar year 2023, healthcare organizations can begin reporting voluntarily. However, starting in January 2024, reporting will be required, with a submission deadline of May 15, 2025.
CMS requires the screening of five specific SDOH domains for admitted patients in 2024:
To ensure a unified approach across various healthcare settings, including ambulatory, emergency department, inpatient, and home health, healthcare organizations should coordinate efforts in addressing SDOH.
Additionally, CMS will also introduce two inpatient quality reporting measures for SDOH in 2024.
In conclusion, addressing social determinants of health is becoming increasingly crucial in healthcare. With both The Joint Commission and CMS emphasizing the importance of SDOH, healthcare organizations must implement comprehensive frameworks for collecting SDOH data and developing intervention plans. By doing so, hospitals can better serve their patients holistically, leading to improved overall health outcomes and a reduction in health disparities.