UnitedHealthcare and the American Medical Association have partnered up to take the next step towards a patient-centric healthcare system. Earlier this month, the organizations announced their intent to propose a collection of 23 new ICD-10 codes associated with social determinants of health (SDoH). This collaboration is just one of many initiatives fronted by UnitedHealthcare and the AMA dedicated to the standardization of data collection and the processing of these social determinants.

A 2014 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study reported that nearly 80% of a person’s health is influenced by environmental or external factors such as food, finances, and housing – leaving just 20% to cover true medical factors. This analysis certainly presents a case for the importance of an established, integrated system of tracking and addressing SDoH.

“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 ICD-10 codes that were proposed make up a system that, in theory, will classify and record all symptoms, diagnoses, procedures, and treatments. The codes will then be used to trigger referrals to local and federal services designed to address a patient’s needs outside of the typical medical scope – linking them to local resources. This system will complement United’s proprietary data model, which works to standardize the capture and aggregation of SDoH data. United’s efforts paired with the AMA’s Integrated Health Model Initiative will create a formidable proposal to facilitate a shift in universal focus and interoperability.