Leveraging data and digital health technologies to assess and impact social determinants of health (SDoH)


  • Kelly Jean Thomas Craig IBM Watson Health http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9954-2795
  • Nicole Fusco IBM Watson Health
  • Thrudur Gunnarsdottir IBM Watson Health
  • Luc Chamberland IBM Watson Health
  • Jane Snowdon
  • William Kassler




Objective: Identify how novel datasets and digital health technology, including analytics- and artificial intelligence (AI)-based tools, can be used to assess non-clinical, social determinants of health (SDoH) for population health improvement.

Methods: A targeted review with systematic methods was performed on three databases and the grey literature to identify recently published articles (2013-2018) for evidence-based qualitative synthesis. Following single review of titles and abstracts, two independent reviewers assessed eligibility of full-texts using predefined criteria and extracted data into predefined templates.

Results: The search yielded 2,714 unique database records of which 65 met inclusion criteria. Most studies were conducted retrospectively in a United States community setting. Identity, behavioral, and economic factors were frequently identified social determinants, due to reliance on administrative data. Three main themes were identified: 1) improve access to data and technology with policy – advance the standardization and interoperability of data, and expand consumer access to digital health technologies; 2) leverage data aggregation – enrich SDoH insights using multiple data sources, and use analytics- and AI-based methods to aggregate data; and 3) use analytics and AI-based methods to assess and address SDoH – retrieve SDoH in unstructured and structured data, and provide contextual care management sights and community-level interventions.

Conclusions: If multiple datasets and advanced analytical technologies can be effectively integrated, and consumers have access to and literacy of technology, more SDoH insights can be identified and targeted to improve public health.

Author Biography

Kelly Jean Thomas Craig, IBM Watson Health

Associate Chief Health Officer Center for AI, Research, and Evaluation Chief Medical Office IBM Watson Health




How to Cite

Craig, K. J. T., Fusco, N., Gunnarsdottir, T., Chamberland, L., Snowdon, J., & Kassler, W. (2021). Leveraging data and digital health technologies to assess and impact social determinants of health (SDoH) . Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 13(3). https://doi.org/10.5210/ojphi.v13i3.11081