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Social determinants of health program Gravity Project joins HL7 FHIR accelerator

The new effort will be focused on standardizing medical codes for social determinants of health.
By Laura Lovett
02:09 pm

The Gravity Project, a social determinants of health program, is now being rolled into the HL7 FHIR Accelerator Program. The efforts, supported by the American Association of Family Physicians, will be focused on standardizing medical codes to be used for social determinants of health — meaning topics like work, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors. The program is also aiming to make data sharing easier for care communication. 

The Gravity Project came into fruition through conversations at The Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network at the Center for Health and Community at the University of CaliforniaThe project is now focusing on creating documentation for screening, diagnosing, treating and planning in a patient's EHR. It will also be looking at ways to capture social determinant of health data and develop FHIR guidelines associated with the data set. 

“Progress in patient care and research has made significant strides with the emergence of the HL7 FHIR Accelerator Program,” HL7 International CEO Dr. Charles Jaffe said in a statement. “By incorporating the social determinants of health care into our decision process, the Gravity Project will help to transform care delivery and health analytics.”


Social determinants of health is a hot topic in the medical community. The term encompasses a large swath of factors including where someone lives, education level, social support, income, access to technologies, public safety in their neighborhood and more. According to the National Academy of Sciencemedical care only accounts for between 10% and 20% of health outcomes, whereas social determinants account for 80% to 90% of outcomes. But traditionally it is difficult to document this in EHRs.  

“The social and environmental conditions in which we live, such as access to healthy food and housing or reliable transportation, are critical to our health,” Dr. Trent Haywood, chief medical officer for BCBSA and president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute, said in a statement. “The Gravity Project will help enable the data interoperability that allows the entire health care community to address barriers that limit the ability to achieve optimal health.”


More and more organizations are starting to look at patients' health beyond just clinical care, and to connect patients to community resources.

Several payers have turned to digital health as a means of addressing social determinants of health. In July CVS Health and its recently acquired Aetna business announced a new program that will work with community organizers, social services and software makers to tackle social and environmental factors affecting patient’s health. Additionally, Solera Health, a digital platform that offers a marketplace for benefits and chronic disease management programs, made a deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute to work on a new program that will focus on social determinants of health. 

Startups are also getting onboard, Cityblock, a spinout of Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs, is a startup dedicated to addressing socio-economic health disparities through tech. It recently landed $65 million in Series B funding to pursue this mission. 


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