The umbrella of social determinants that can impact a patient’s health are spread across many areas of everyday life, from their diet, their educational background, their finances and their level of understanding about their own well-being.
Oncologists surveyed reflected this when asked who should be responsible for delivering assistance programs to patients, dividing the task fairly evenly among government organizations, non-profits, commercial payers, hospitals/cancer centers and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Respondents said the top three areas of assistance that would have the greatest impact on helping patients achieve better outcomes are patient assistance programs (PAPs) (79 percent), assistance with transportation (57 percent) and health education programs (29 percent).
The survey findings clearly indicate that oncologists need the support of other stakeholders to address these challenges. Not surprisingly, more than 80 percent of respondents said they are constrained in the amount of time they can spend assisting patients with social needs.
Within the oncology community, there is a concerted effort to address these challenges and improve outcomes for patients negatively affected by these factors. ASCO president Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO, who recently began her tenure, selected “Equity: Every patient. Every day. Everywhere.” as her presidential theme for 2020 and has expressed her commitment to addressing SDOH in several areas – funding research projects, incorporating health equity into Annual Meeting sessions, patient and provider surveys, and expanding ASCO’s role in advocacy. Pierce also recently announced that ASCO’s Health Equity Committee will be issuing recommendations on achieving health care equity within the coming months.
While SDOH encompass data points across a wide range of sources, healthcare stakeholders can harness this data using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to more easily pull together data points across all categories of social determinants and create a more holistic view of each patient. One such tool, the JVION Machine, allows practices to identify a patient’s individual risk factors by tracking both clinical and non-clinical vectors. The tool then offers recommended clinical actions to help improve outcomes, quality of care or experience.
As important clinical advances continue to offer more personalized, more informed treatment options, it’s clear the social factors that influence a patient’s health when they walk out of the clinic or log off their telemedicine visit are equally as important. In an interview with VitalSource™ GPO, Barbara McAneny, MD, past president of AMA, stressed the important role of physicians have in addressing these factors and achieving health equity.
“We need to think outside the medical box to address the entire scope of issues our patients face,” McAneny said. “This only happens when we see each patient as more than their 15 minute visit and the cancer you’re treating.”
For more insights, including findings on how oncologists are managing the growing population of cancer survivors, download the full report here.