What They’re Watching: Laura Young, healtheConnect Alaska

Laura Young is the Executive Director of healtheConnect Alaska. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss utilizing data to counteract social determinants of health.

“Working for the health information exchange, a lot of times I’m really focused on data and what’s kind of coming in terms of information that can be shared amongst providers. So, the big one that I’ve been tracking is social determinants of health. There’s been some talk about that here [at the State of Reform conference] today which has been a really good dialogue actually. And so just really kind of understanding what that means here in Alaska because it’s kind of different in every geographic area; what social determinants of health might look like here might be different. And how we can as the health information exchange be the convener of being able to share that kind of information. So that’s a big one, a big topic that I’m hearing a lot of buzz about.

Some innovation I’ve seen around social determinants of health include collecting some non-traditional data sets — things that you don’t think about being health care data. It might be air quality data or pollution data for a body of water that then gives you some understanding of some of the health outcomes for the populations that live in those areas. So those are some really innovative sort of ideas. I think thinking about health care information in a different way…a lot of times we don’t think about health care being some of these non-traditional providers — the corrections system, the court system, your school where your kids may go to school, they have school nurses and things like that. Having that information so that when a provider sees a patient, that they can really have this whole picture of what’s going on with the patient.”