How Social Determinants Of Health Can Lead To Better Health Care Outcomes

The term “social determinants of health” (SDOH) refers to the factors outside of traditional care that impact a patient’s health, such as “the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age”. Improvements in overall health metrics are likely to depend on the attention being paid to these social determinants

Latest research shows that income level and living environment have a profound impact on patient outcomes.


As the COVID-19 pandemic has enhanced health disparities, the social determinants of health have gained more importance, especially when artificial intelligence (AI) comes into play.

“AI has the potential to help clinicians improve patient outcomes, said Dr. Taha Kass-Hout, director and chief medical officer at Amazon Web Services. Medical records can be a great source of data to develop algorithms, speech recognition, and decision-making tools that could help doctors and nurses identify risk factors for serious illnesses such as congestive heart failure.” This will also help reduce hospital costs and over-testing and result in lower costs for both the patient and provider.

And even more, using additional data from users can also help providers determine a holistic health care plan. Including information on patients’ social determinants of health, such as living environment and work situation can highly improve outcomes. The ideal result is a holistic approach instead of acute care.

AI is like a “toolbox” to understand the information provided and to help doctors and nurses identify risk factors for serious illnesses. Machine learning can be used to check symptoms and diagnoses. AI can recognize patterns in the data that wouldn’t be obvious otherwise.

“For instance, the accuracy of Amazon Web Services’ model to predict congestive heart failure increased by 4% as the algorithms took in notes about how physicians were treating the condition and monitoring patients for symptoms.”


Data has played a pivotal part in helping health care providers prepare effective responses against the pandemic and it also is the key to bridging the disparity gaps. Patients are playing an increasing role in their own health care. Predictions about their health can be made based on AI algorithms.

With the momentum of COVID-19 moving us forward, much work lies ahead to fully incorporate the benefits of innovative technology to build a more equitable and healthy future for all. But we must also ensure that consumers are able to responsibly use these new technologies and that health care organizations are able to manage health data and integrate it with SDOH data.

We at PCG can help implement technologies and practices to improve patient care and reduce costs. Contact us today.


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