Feature January 12, 2022 John Bernot, MD

How to address the social determinants of health in orthopaedics

Learn about the key social determinants of health (SDOH) for orthopaedic patients and how a personal surgery guide can help.

social determinants of health in orthopaedics

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, social determinants of health (SDOH) can impact up to 80% of health outcomes.1

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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.”2

For orthopaedic patients, there are numerous factors outside of the healthcare setting that can significantly impact outcomes. Read on to learn:

  • What are the key social determinants of health for orthopaedic patients
  • How a personal surgery guide can help manage SDOH for your patients
  • Why addressing SDOH needs to be a priority

4 key issues impacting orthopaedic patients

Outside of the clinical setting, here are four issues that impact your orthopaedic surgery patients’ ability to manage their care at home:

  1. Access to transportation. Reliable transportation to and from surgery, follow-up appointments, and physical therapy is an often overlooked but essential component of a successful surgical procedure.
  2. A safe, stable home environment. Patients need a safe home to return to after surgery with hot water, temperature control, and where they can move freely without the risk of falling. Patients who lack a stable home and move between relatives or shelters are particularly at risk for poor surgical outcomes. 
  3. Knowledge of community support networks. Local social service agencies and senior centers can help your patients arrange transportation, identify and repair areas of the home that may lead to falls, and provide resources to ensure heat and water services aren’t shut off. Patients who are unaware of these services may experience poor surgical outcomes. 
  4. Ability to understand and follow pre- and post-op care plans. Patients with low health literacy have a much higher risk of developing infections after surgery.3  Providing them with information and instructions they understand are necessary for optimal outcomes.

Managing SDOH with a personal surgery guide

A personal surgery guide can be with your patients everywhere the care team cannot be, including your patients’ homes and neighborhoods.

Here’s how a personal surgery guide can help your practice or surgery center better manage SDOH for your patient population:

  • Collect SDOH data not found in the patient’s EHR. Perhaps the greatest barrier to addressing SDOH is that most providers don’t have access to data collected outside the home as these aren’t standardized fields in most EHRs. A personal surgery guide collects data from patients outside of the clinical setting to help inform your care plans.
  • Identify at-risk patients. When it comes to SDOH, knowing is half the battle. Enabling patients to respond in real-time if they are following your care plan and asking them to answer questions that would show if they’re at risk for a fall or lack transportation has long been missing from the patient-provider relationship. 
  • Establish trusted two-way communication. For some patients, checking a daily task list and texting a question for more details is an easier, more comfortable way to communicate with the care team that increases task adherence.4

Is Ayva part of your SDOH strategy?

Improved surgical outcomes are a win-win for orthopaedic patients and providers. 

Patients experience better outcomes and quality of life while providers realize higher reimbursements and patient satisfaction scores. 

Addressing the social determinants of health is essential to making that win-win a reality.

Learn how Ayva can play a critical role in addressing SDOH for your patient population.

Meet Ayva today!

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Shane Andreasen

Bravado Health


Bravado Health Media Line


(561) 805-5935

  1. Medicaid's Role in Addressing Social Determinants of Health. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Brief.
  2. Social Determinants of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  3. Low health literacy may be a risk factor for postoperative infection. American College of Surgeons Press Release.
  4. 7 benefits of two-way text messaging with patients. Physician's Practice.