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New Resources to Address Social Determinants of Health

Published on 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

In a November 16th Press Release HHS announced three new key resources to “build on the Administration’s work to advance health equity by acknowledging that peoples’ social and economic conditions play an important role in their health and wellbeing.”


White House Resource: U.S. Playbook to Address Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)

HHS defines SDOH as “the conditions in the environment 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.”


The White House’s vision is for every American to lead full and healthy lives within their community. “This Playbook lays out an initial set of structural actions federal agencies are undertaking to break down these silos and to support equitable health outcomes by improving the social circumstances of individuals and communities.” The playbook groups actions into the following three pillars:


  • Pillar 1: Expanding Data Gathering and Sharing,
  • Pillar 2: Support Flexible Funding to Address Social Needs,
  • Pillar 3: Support Backbone Organization.


    HHS Resource: Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Health-Related Social Needs (HRSN) Framework

    In a related Press Release HHS notes “the Playbook highlights ongoing and new actions that federal agencies are taking to support health by improving the social circumstances of individuals…The second resource provides guidance “to structure programs that address housing and nutritional insecurity for enrollees in high need populations.”


    HHS Resource: HHS’s Call to Action to Address Health Related Social Needs

    The third document is meant to “encourage cross-sector partnerships among those working in health care, social services, public and environmental health, government, and health information technology to create a stronger, more integrated health and social care system through shared decision making and by leveraging community resources, to address unmet health related social needs.”


    Z-Codes: Identifying and Coding Social Determinates of Health

    Identifying and coding SDOH supports quality measurement, planning, and implementation of social needs, and identifying community population needs. This data can be used to advocate for updating and creating new policies. For example, effective October 1, 2023, the severity designation for three Z codes was changed to a CC (comorbidity or complication) for purposes of MS-DRG assignment:

  • Z59.00: Homelessness, unspecified,
  • Z59.01: Sheltered homelessness (due to economic difficulties, currently living in a shelter, motel, temporary or transitional living situation, scattered site housing, or not having a consistent place to sleep at night), and
  • Z59.02: Unsheltered homelessness (residing in a place not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, or abandoned buildings (on the street)).

CMS noted in a FY 2024 IPPS Final Rule Fact Sheet that as SDOH codes are increasingly added to billed claims, they plan “to continue to analyze the effects of SDOH on severity of illness, complexity of services, and consumption of resources.” 


To help with understanding and coding Z Codes, CMS has published an infographic titled Improving the Collection of Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Data with ICD-10-CM Z Codes. This document defines Z codes, explains the importance of collecting them and includes recent SDOH Z Code Categories and new codes effective October 1, 2023.


A related Journey Map walks you through five steps to using Z codes and how using these codes can enhance your quality improvement initiatives.


Article Author: Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS
Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Analytics at Medical Management Plus, Inc. Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system. In her current position, Beth is a principle writer for MMP’s Wednesday@One weekly e-newsletter, an active member of our HIPAA Compliance Committee, MMP’s Education Department Program Director and co-developer of MMP’s proprietary Compliance Protection Assessment Tool.

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.