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UnitedHealthcare and the AMA Collaborate to Understand and Address Social Barriers Preventing People’s Access to Better Health

  • UnitedHealthcare and AMA support using data for social determinants of health to improve and simplify how referrals are made to social services
  • Collaboration builds on both organizations’ efforts to help underserved individuals and families get on a path to better health 

MINNETONKA, Minn. and CHICAGO (April 2, 2019) – UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, and the American Medical Association (AMA) announced a new collaboration that will better identify and address social determinants of health (SDOH) to improve access to care and patient outcomes.

Building on work initiated by UnitedHealthcare, the two organizations are working together to standardize how data is collected, processed and integrated regarding critical social and environmental factors that contribute to patient well-being.

Nearly 80 percent1 of what influences a person’s health relates to nonmedical issues, such as food, housing, transportation, and the financial means to pay for medications, utilities and other services. Yet the health care system does not have a consistent, organized way to capture those needs and then incorporate the data into a person’s overall care plan.

Through this collaboration, UnitedHealthcare and the AMA are supporting the creation of nearly two dozen new ICD-10 codes related to SDOH. By combining traditional medical data with self-reported SDOH data, the codes trigger referrals to social and government services to address people’s unique needs, connecting them directly to local and national resources in their communities.

“UnitedHealthcare and the AMA share a common goal of expanding the health care system’s perspective to consider the whole person – not just medical care – by placing as much emphasis on people’s social needs as on their clinical needs,” said Bill Hagan, President, Clinical Services, UnitedHealthcare. “By working together to leverage data, technology and the incredible expertise of our network physicians, we can more effectively address the social factors that limit access to health care.”

The collaboration between UnitedHealthcare and the AMA illustrates a growing recognition of the partnerships that are essential to the success of patient-centric health care. With a consistent set of standardized data, health care organizations can tap into local and national resources to connect people to social and government services.

“The AMA is excited to work with UnitedHealthcare through the continuing efforts of our Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI) to foster collaboration around innovative data and technology-driven processes for incorporating social determinants of health into routine medical care,” said Tom Giannulli, Chief Medical Information Officer of AMA’s IHMI. “The collaboration reinforces the importance of social and environmental factors in patient care, and will shape IHMI’s efforts to support clinical decisions with useful and valid data to achieve broad improvements in health and greater health equity.”

Typically, physicians and care providers use a system of ICD-10 codes to classify and record all diagnoses, symptoms, and medical treatments and procedures. UnitedHealthcare has developed a data model focused on standardizing the capture and processing of SDOH-related information.

Essential to improving health and wellness are identifying and aggregating critical factors of patient well-being, such as employment, education, food, housing, access to transportation and many other factors.  UnitedHealthcare partners with national and local community-based organizations to expand access to critical social services for millions of people. Using its data model, UnitedHealthcare has made more than 700,000 social-service referrals for people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans since 2017, providing an Imputed Market PriceTM of more than $250 million.

The AMA’s IHMI group is dedicated to ensuring that data portability standards and semantic interoperability are openly achievable and keep pace with innovation. Its work continues to focus on market-driven needs in health care data interoperability through the development of common data portability standards that enhance information sharing and unlock potential improvements in patient outcomes. 

To view a video about UnitedHealthcare’s efforts to address social determinants of health, go to: https://newsroom.uhc.com/expanding-access.html

1Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings Model, 2014.

About the AMA

The American Medical Association is the powerful ally and unifying voice for America’s physicians, the patients they serve, and the promise of a healthier nation. The AMA attacks the dysfunction in health care by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care. It reimagines medical education, training, and lifelong learning for the digital age to help physicians grow at every stage of their careers, and it improves the health of the nation by confronting the increasing chronic disease burden. For more information, visit ama-assn.org.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better for everyone by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. In the United States, UnitedHealthcare offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 1.2 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. The company also provides health benefits and delivers care to people through owned and operated health care facilities in South America. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health care company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @UHC on Twitter.

CONTACT:    Steve Shivinsky                                                 Robert J. Mills
                       UnitedHealthcare                                              AMA
                       763-361-2882                                                  312-464-5970
                       stephen.shivinsky@uhc.com                           robert.mills@ama-assn.org