Providers and payers have a steadfast mission to care for patients and communities, but they are often carrying out that mission without access to data on the factors that influence healthcare costs and outcomes the most: social determinants of health. Traditionally, healthcare organizations have only had access to clinical and claims data about the patients they serve, but social factors like access to transportation, housing or healthy food usually have more of an impact on a person’s health than even their own genes.
This problem led Trenor Williams to found Socially Determined, a healthcare analytics startup focused on SDOH insights, in 2017. On Tuesday, the startup closed a $26 million Series B funding round led by Questa Capital, with participation from existing investors LRVHealth, OSF Healthcare, Ziegler Link-Age Funds and HealthWorx, the investment arm of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. The round brings the Washington, D.C.-based company’s total capital raised to date to $36 million.
Williams said he was compelled to launch Socially Determined during his time as a practicing physician, in which he noticed the healthcare system was operating with a “severely obstructed” view of the factors that influence patients’ health.
“For example, it’s easy to talk to someone with prediabetes about how they should eat healthier, but you don’t know if they can afford healthy food, if there are healthy food options in the neighborhood where they live, or if they have the transportation to get someplace where there are options,” he said.
Most healthcare organizations identify the SDOH impacting their community from one-on-one screenings or anecdotal evidence. However, Williams said screenings have some major limitations since this method of tracking SDOH only touches those who come into contact with the healthcare system, allowing the most vulnerable people to slip through the cracks. He also pointed out that this method does not scale and only provides the opportunity to offer help after someone is facing an issue.
To build technology that gives healthcare organizations a more accurate view of the SDOH affecting the patients they serve, Williams said his team gathered datasets from both public and private sources, using data that is continuously updated in order to make insights stronger.
Socially Determined made that data usable by creating analytic models to assess multiple SDOH domains — such as transportation access, reliable housing, food insecurity and social connectedness — as well as a platform and user interface to explore the insights those analytics uncover.
The software generates FICO-like social risk scores that customers can use to better understand social risk among their community and drive health equity. These risk scores are based on hundreds of proprietary and open-source datasets about individuals and their environment, including data on income, household size, vehicle ownership rates, location of healthy and unhealthy food, education level and home ownership.
Using a subscription model, the startup sells its software to health plans, health systems and life science organizations. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and AmeriHealth are among its customers. The new funding will be used to onboard new customers and scale Socially Determined’s client engagement, Williams said.
“Through our work with clients like CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and AmeriHealth, we’ve proven that our approach works and can make a real impact,” Williams said. “Because of the value we’ve shown, clients are expanding the length and scope of their contracts and we’re now in a position to bring our unique solutions to additional organizations across the healthcare ecosystem.”
The SDOH software space is new and evolving, and Williams said it is split into two categories. The first consists of companies providing a referral network to link people with community resources to help address their needs. He said these companies, such as findhelp and Unite Us, have a fundamentally different approach than his.
The second category comprises companies delivering analytics to help healthcare organizations interpret and act upon SDOH data. Socially Determined’s risk scores do this by encouraging customers to act. For example, if a payer sees its members in a particular city have little access to healthy food, the insight can prompt it to address the problem by working with local organizations to distribute healthy meals to families.
Williams said Socially Determined has an advantage in this category because it “pioneered this space” by focusing its software exclusively on SDOH and has been refining its analytics and the data behind them longer than any others in the space.
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