Guiding Principles for Ethical Use of SDOH Data During COVID-19

Examples from the field: How organizations are implementing the five guiding principles

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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of populations whose healthcare access, quality, and affordability are impacted by social determinants of health (SDOH).

Many healthcare stakeholders use SDOH data to identify communities at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, eHealth Initiative (eHI) released The Guiding Principles for Ethical Use of Social Determinants of Health Data to explore the value of social determinants of health and the ways they can be ethically applied to work toward patient-centered care goals. In that report, experts from across the healthcare industry gathered to provide opinions on ethics and social determinants of health to offer a guide on their practical application.

guiding principlesThis white paper provides examples of organizations applying these principles to address obstacles and health disparities created by the pandemic. It identifies real-world examples of how each of the five guiding principles can be applied during COVID-19. Studying SDOH and its impact on disadvantaged populations during times of crisis, will help guide governments to make better decisions during health emergencies in the future so that every individual has an equal opportunity to be and stay healthy.

It’s more important than ever to understand which data to use in order to maximize the value and accuracy of predictive analytics and to be able to integrate the data into existing workflows. Insights derived from SDOH data can help achieve the goal of identifying populations with barriers to care and/or stage interventions to influence healthy behaviors, which is critical to affecting overall health and well-being.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, it will be important to educate individuals on how their SDOH values may increase their risk for COVID-19 and impact their health. Clinicians will need to review with patients their risks, necessary interventions, and resources available, and then jointly agree on next steps to work toward.

guiding principlesAs more healthcare organizations begin to utilize SDOH to identify and treat individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, providers and policymakers must work to ensure that data is collected and used with clearly defined ethical standards and transparency. The Guiding Principles can help inform the development and optimization of SDOH interventions and services. The organizations highlighted in this report illustrate how the five principles can be applied in the midst of a pandemic. As we continue to face this unprecedented health challenge, the ethical use of SDOH data can improve healthcare organizations’ ability to provide the right interventions and services at the right time.

Take a look at the five Guiding Principles and how healthcare organizations are working them into their approaches for caring for patients during this pandemic. Download Assessing eHI's Guiding Principles for Ethical Use of SDOH Data During COVID-19.
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