What are social determinants of health (SDOH) and why are they considered so important?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines SDOH as "the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks," such as, education, safe housing, access to nutritious foods, transportation, and good air and water quality.

According to the World Health Organization, SDOH accounts for 30–55 percent of health outcomes, versus traditional clinical care, and those with unmet needs associated with SDOH are more likely to contribute higher, more costly healthcare utilization, not to mention poor physical and mental health.

How is SDOH data captured?

SDOH data is captured using ICD-10-CM codes within Chapter 21: Factors influencing health status and contact with health services (Z00-Z99). Z-codes are not new to the coding world; however, they have not historically been not a primary focus for coders to review and capture.

With a greater focus on addressing health inequities, SDOH is in the spotlight as a strategic initiative of all stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem. In fact, the HHS has recently announced that SDOH is one of the five overarching goals of its Healthy People 2030 initiative: “Create social, physical, and economic environments that promote attaining the full potential for health and well-being for all.”

Resources for analyzing SDOH data

Gain insights from SDOH with data quality tools  

The Health Language Analytics Integrity solution offers healthcare stakeholders the clinical terminology expertise and understanding of SDOH data domains, and the advanced normalization and grouping tools to be able to easily analyze the data in order to inform decision-making and take action. 

Accurately and comprehensively capture and code SDOH during patient encounters


Ensure SDOH are coded using the appropriate Z Code in order to be properly grouped and defined for analysis


Accurately analyze SDOH code groups for reliable reporting and timely intervention

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