Healthcare providers are increasingly focusing on social determinants of health (SDOH) to improve quality of care and outcomes, and many are finding that data from third parties can be key to the success of those programs.

Healthcare organizations often derive SDOH from their own resources, but a recent report from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Chicago and Acxiom, a data-based marketing company in New York City, found that two-thirds of survey respondents use or want to use third-party consumer data related to SDOH to improve patient experiences. (The report is available online at:

Sixty-one percent said they use or would use the data to improve community health needs assessments, while 56% said they see opportunities to use the data for improving chronic disease management. Another 47% said it could help them better understand what motivates patients.

SDOH will be central to any forward-looking healthcare strategy, says Cameron Thompson, managing director for healthcare with Acxiom.

“Hospitals that do not understand the social determinants and details of their individual patients will not be able to build new facilities, create outreach programs, or know who to build programs with,” Thompson says. “They need to know where the pockets of opportunity are from a commercial perspective, and all of that can be supported with a holistic view of the patient.”

The report lists the following five key takeaways from the research:

1. “Siloed data sources and difficulty measuring ROI are among the top challenges facing hospitals as they strive to deliver better patient-driven experiences and outcomes.”

2. “One-third also cite the transition to value-based care as a key challenge to delivering better patient-driven experiences, a notable concern given six out of 10 report participation in ACOs and more than one-third participated in bundled payments or patient-centered medical homes.”

3. “More than four out of 10 hospitals have access to and are actively using third-party consumer and lifestyle data on the social determinants of health with another quarter reporting interest in gaining access to this data. More than half would be interested in integrating this data into the EHR.”

4. “Hospitals see a variety of opportunities to leverage consumer and third-party data on social determinants of health including improved community health needs assessments and better chronic disease management. Opportunities that are most often expected to improve patient satisfaction, reduce readmission rates, and drive patient engagement.”

5. “There are some barriers hospitals need to overcome to realize the benefits from tapping into consumer and lifestyle data on social determinants of health. Among the top obstacles are budgets and limited funding, uncertainty about the best sources of data, and difficulty recognizing tangible ROI.”