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On Social Determinants of Health with Laura Sankey

Introducing What We Know, Advocatia’s monthly digest where we share conversations with some of the industry’s brightest minds about the challenges and opportunities they face.

Today’s conversation is with Laura Sankey, a visionary on Social Determinants of Health

and managed care. Laura’s background includes having served as Vice President of Product Strategy and Social Determinants of Health for Centene Corporation, a 74B multi-line managed care enterprise.

Laura on the Benefits of Adversity

“One of the things the pandemic did was highlight the fact that we are all in this together. People and organizations that were traditionally siloed or adversarial are not just reaching across the table, they are figuring out ways to sit on the same side. People are coming together from different sectors to solve problems that would have taken months or years by blurring lanes and shortening the trajectory dramatically.

Payers, providers, and the public sector have come together to solve for things that extend beyond the clinical side of healthcare and more into things that actually sustain health like connecting those in need with technology or affordable housing. We are seeing payers and providers leveraging technology and tools like Advocatia to connect people with resources that drive health."

Putting a spotlight on that level of collaboration can have serious long-term effects. We have proven are eagerness to rise to the occasion!

Laura on the Promise of Change

“My mom had her knee replaced earlier this year. Unlike what would have happened years prior, she didn’t have to sit in the hospital for three days before going to a skilled nursing facility. Instead, she was able to get on with her care because the traditional rules and protocols were waived due to the pandemic. She recovered more quickly, felt secure and productive, and was able to get home and expedite getting back to normal.

I wonder how can we permanently remove these obstacles that are quite possibly just administrative burden? SNAP candidates no longer need to participate in face-to-face interviews that often required arranging childcare, time off from work or adding another thing to an already busy life. And the people conducting the interviews are more productive too, using technology to connect with people where they are, when most convenient for them. Studies have shown that financial and program assistance folks can help a third more people now that they are out from under the former requirements."

Let’s not fall back to the old ways of conducting our business. Now is a good time to ask “Why?”

Laura on the New Corporate Responsibility

“One of the most impactful changes during the pandemic from a SDOH perspective was the eviction moratorium. The big question is how can we get more creative about the long term sustainability of this?

Even though the Treasury was attempting to effectuate residents having a place to live by investing in landlords that needed the assistance, there is still an enormous amount of mistrust and miscommunication. Why not engage with organizations who already have the trust to serve as a conduit. Companies like Centene touched 1 in every 15 US citizen and have a vested interest in the safety and security of their members."

How can we as Corporate citizens work with one another to drive communication and build trust?

Laura on Obstacles & Opportunities

"Data exchange and interoperability remains a major challenge in healthcare. It is an area where we are seeing tremendous innovation with SDOH companies, but there is still redundancy in handling data.

The challenge we face is mitigating the risk around data security while identifying the financial gains of interoperability. There are grants that are encouraging organizations to work together more seamlessly. Organizations like NC360 in North Carolina are forcing the issue more acutely by creating a closed loop referral system with a single point for screening, referral and reporting. They are starting to tackle the payment piece, but the approach is promising."

How can we connect with one another to streamline the experience for our members and patients?


Laura and her family live in St. Louis. She is currently serving in a variety of Board and advisory roles and providing insights and counsel to healthcare organizations in areas including SDOH and innovation. You can connect with Laura Sankey on LinkedIn at


Next month we talk with HFMA’s Mary Mirabelli about the promise of innovation and the use of digital health to provide more access in an affordable way.


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