Onlife Health Launches Innovative Tool to Better Understand Social Determinants of Health

Guiding members on the next right thing to do in their health care journey…

That’s the goal at Onlife Health, one of GuideWell’s consumer-engagement businesses, providing health and wellness solutions to 13 million health plan members across 13 states through their user-friendly engagement platform.

The health and wellness company, which serves health plans and employers across the country, is committed to delivering a personalized wellness program to help members achieve their personal health goals.

But Onlife Health acknowledges that helping someone make improvements to their diet or exercise routine cannot be done without first understanding that person’s social determinants of health (SDoH), the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that can affect health outcomes.

That’s why Onlife developed an innovative solution to help health plans gain a deep understanding of the vulnerabilities that exist within their members’ particular communities.

It’s called the Social Determinants of Health Community-Based Index. It’s a mapping tool that identifies and analyzes the SDoH vulnerabilities for communities and neighborhoods across the entire United States.

The Index is modeled after the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, a data bank initially created to identify communities most vulnerable to a natural disaster.

The idea is to have a systematic way to gain an in-depth, data-based understanding of which communities and neighborhoods are adversely affected by SDoH. The index also helps to identify the specific risk factors that need to be addressed within particular communities.

Dr. Catherine Bass, PhD, Director of Data Informatics at Onlife Health, says the solution allows them to better support health plan clients and their members.

“The index is a tool that provides data back to the health plans in way that they can use it,” she said. “The data gives health plans a better view of their members and the communities in which they live.”

Creating the Index

It took more than a year for Onlife Health to develop the index. To begin, they began aggregating publicly available data on community demographics, socioeconomic factors, housing and transportation, health care quality, and exercise opportunity.

Then, they ranked each census tract (or region) in the country and assigned it a percentile ranking (0 to 1, with 0 being the least vulnerable and 1 being the most vulnerable).

Finally, the percentile rankings for each of the five categories were averaged together to create an overall SDoH Vulnerability Score.

In addition, Onlife created a single variable group to indicate whether a census tract was food insecure.

All of these percentile rankings were then downloaded into a sophisticated visualization program that immediately displayed the percentile rankings of any census tract in the country simply by rolling a cursor over a map containing that neighborhood.

How Health Plans Can Use the Index

Now that the index has been developed, Onlife is showing clients how they can use it to better complement their own SDoH strategies. Health plans can utilize the Community-Based Index to acquire a big-picture, comprehensive view of its population and to identify the most likely vulnerabilities a member may be at risk for.

The Index can help health plans and employers deliver targeted communications to individual members and connect members to the right resources.

Addressing SDoH during COVID-19

As a company that’s focused on supporting members on their wellness journey, Onlife can now do an even better job by providing health plans with what they need during a time when their members need them most.

“COVID-19 has forced health plans to find new, creative ways to address drivers of health and it starts with analyzing data to better understand the populations they serve,” said Bass.

Bass and her team believe the tool will go a long way in helping health plans determine the best well-being solutions to meet their members’ needs.

“Our ultimate goal is to help members decide the next right thing to do along their wellness journey and help them thrive,” she said. “The Community-Based Index is just another solution that better enables us to support health plans and help their members live their best life.”

To learn more about the SDoH Community Based Index that Onlife Health developed, you can download a white paper here.

About the Author

Ilyssa Drumm

GuideWell Social Media and Media Relations Consultant