UnitedHealthcare: Employers should use SDOH data to improve employee health outcomes, costs

Where an employee lives and the social risk factors they face affects overall health outcomes — employers should be incorporating SDOH data when designing health benefits to improve employee outcomes, productivity and associated costs, according to a white paper published Feb. 21 by UnitedHealthcare and the Health Action Council. 

The research analyzed HAC members' claims across more than 217,000 covered lives with an average age of 34. The study reviewed claims that happened between April 2022 to March 2023 and that were paid out through June 2023.

Six key takeaways:

1. The most common social determinant adults are at high-risk for are financial (36%) and social isolation (30%). Forty-eight percent of adults have no social risks, while 26% have one.

2. Employers operating in the 20 healthiest states (per UnitedHealth) may have lower health benefits costs than their counterparts with employees in unhealthy states. If employees lived in the top 20 healthiest-ranked states, the total covered per member per month cost could be reduced by $61 million, or $24 PMPM.

3. When looking at generations with the highest percentage of individuals with 3 social risks, Millennials were the highest (13%), followed by Gen Z (11%), Gen X (8%) and Baby Boomers (6%).

4. Forty-one percent of children have parents with at least 1 high risk SDOH. Those children had an increased prevalence of suicidal ideation and depression, higher PMPM spend and more ER visits per capita, despite having 10% fewer anxiety claims per capita.

5. Overall social risk in rural areas was more than 6% higher than in suburban and urban areas.

6. Health benefits managers should take three key steps to improve employee health: 

  • Conduct better analyses by using geographic, community health and SDOH risk data to understand the impact of location on health outcomes and cost.
  • Design benefits that are tailored to employees' unique health needs.
  • Educate employees on the importance of preventive healthcare.

Read the full white paper here.

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