A Novel Ontological Approach to Track Social Determinants of Health in Primary Care
McGagh D., Jani A., Williams J., Liyanage H., Hoang U., Okusi C., Sherlock J., Ferreira F., Yonova I., de Lusignan S.
The associated morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 and the public health response to prevent the spread of the virus has repeatedly demonstrated the significant impact of social determinants of health (SDoH) and social inequities on health outcomes. Social prescriptions are interventions aimed at tackling SDoH. In 2019, NHS-England committed to support the use of social prescribing across England. NHS-England commissioned the Oxford-Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) sentinel network to monitor the distribution of social prescribing services within English primary care and, within that, monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on SDoH. To track incidence of people presenting to primary care with SDoH-related issues, we implemented an ontological approach to curate SDoH indicators in computerised medical records (CMR) using the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine - Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT). These indicators were then extracted from the RCGP-RSC sentinel network database to present weekly incidence rates per 10,000 people to assess the impact of the pandemic on these SDoH. Pre- versus peri-pandemic, we observed an increase in the recording of several of our SDoH indicators; namely issues related to homelessness, unemployment, mental health, harmful substance use and financial difficulties. As far as we are aware, this is the first time that routinely collected primary care CMR data has been utilised for the monitoring and surveillance of SDoH and demonstrates the feasibility of this approach for future surveillance.