AMA, UnitedHealthcare Announce Collaboration to Better Identify, Address SDOH Through Data

April 3, 2019

The American Medical Association (AMA) and UnitedHealthcare are teaming up to standardize how data on social determinants of health (SDOH) are collected, processed, and integrated.

With 80% of a person’s health being influenced by nonmedical issues, such as food insecurity and housing instability, there’s agreement among stakeholders that to improve health, these social determinants of health (SDOH) must be addressed. However, how to best capture and incorporate these factors is less clear. Taking on the task, the American Medical Association (AMA) and UnitedHealthcare are teaming up to leverage data to identify and address SDOH and, in turn, improve access to care and patient outcomes.

According to a joint press release from the 2 groups, the medical group and insurer will collaborate to standardize how data on these factors are collected, processed, and integrated to equip providers with the information necessary to connect patients with the appropriate services.

Through the collaboration, AMA and UnitedHealthcare will support the addition of approximately 24 new International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, codes related to SDOH. The goal is to combine traditional medical data and self-reported SDOH data so that these codes trigger referrals to both social and government services that meet each person’s unique needs through available resources in their communities.

“UnitedHealthcare and the AMA share a common goal of expanding the healthcare system’s perspective to consider the whole person—not just medical care—by placing as much emphasis on people’s social needs as on their clinical needs,” Bill Hage, president, Clinical Services, UnitedHealthcare, said in a statement. “By working together to leverage data, technology, and the incredible expertise of our network physicians, we can more effectively address the social factors that limit access to healthcare.”

The collaboration is likely to be welcome news to organizations looking to integrate SDOH into their healthcare decision making. In October 2018, a study found that there were significant barriers to uptake and implementation of these factors into electronic health records, one of them being a lack of standardization.

The collaboration builds upon initiatives by UnitedHealthcare to improve SDOH for patients. In March, the insurer announced that it has surpassed $400 million in investments in affordable housing as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to remove social barriers to better health for people in underserved communities.

The collaboration also underscores the value of partnerships in delivering patient-centered care that addresses all aspects of a person’s health. Similar partnerships have taken shape over the last year, including Kaiser Permanente’s $200 million investment to address housing instability through partnerships with community-based organizations, local governments, and housing advocates.