Press Releases

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Highmark joins the Gravity Project to standardize social determinants of health data

Pittsburgh (May 26, 2020) — Highmark today announced its participation and commitment in support of the Gravity Project, an HL7® Fast Health Interoperability Resource (FHIR Accelerator®) and public collaborative designed to standardize medical data used to identify social determinants of health (SDOH). The partnership, now more imperative than ever, is one of many Highmark has supported to combat socioeconomic obstacles affecting the health of communities it serves.

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live, work, learn and play that can impact individuals’ health and well-being before the healthcare system can intervene. With rapidly increasing interest in collecting social risk data, the Gravity Project is a direct response to calls-to-action around the development of national standards for SDOH data reported in electronic health records (EHRs). The initiative seeks to identify coded data elements and associated value sets to represent SDOH signifiers documented in EHRs across four clinical activities — screening, diagnosis, planning, and interventions — with a focus on three social risk domains: food insecurity, housing instability, and transportation access.

Due to the vast medical and socioeconomic needs surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gravity Project is moving forward with urgency. Today, standardized SDOH data is vital for identifying at-risk COVID-19 patients and intervening before the individual’s health is severely impacted.

“As a sponsoring partner, we’re proud to be a change leader in support of the communities we serve, especially in this time of unprecedented need,” said Deborah Donovan, Highmark Health Director, Social Determinants of Health, and Gravity Project Executive Committee Member. “Highmark continues to double-down on efforts to address barriers to health and well-being, and the Gravity Project serves as another important piece of the puzzle by creating the infrastructure to standardize the capture of SDOH insights, which will support advancements in population health management activities, right now and for years to come.”

Documenting and sharing SDOH-related assessment, diagnosis, and treatment information using progressive coding and exchange standards has the potential to improve whole-person care, well-being, and health outcomes.

“Highmark is a strategic partner committed to the success of the Gravity Project and the overarching goal of facilitating health care and social service integration,” says Evelyn Gallego, CEO of EMI Advisors LLC. “Highmark’s support in 2020 and beyond is helping to ensure the Gravity Project continues its tremendous progress in identifying and validating interoperable data standards for SDOH information exchange.”

Highmark’s financial support of the Gravity Project will be utilized in contracted project management, project oversight for specific use case-driven projects, as well as HL7-rendered support and coordination services for the development of SDOH enabled FHIR® based standards.

About Highmark Inc.
One of America's leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. (the Health Plan) and its affiliated health plans (collectively, the Health Plans) work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of more than 4.4 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit

About the Gravity Project
Launched in January 2019 by the Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network (SIREN) in partnership with EMI Advisors LLC, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Gravity Project has convened over 900 experts from across the nation to collaboratively develop recommendations for how best to capture information for interoperable electronic health information exchange about clinical activities related to three social determinants of health (SDoH) domains: food insecurity, housing instability and quality, and transportation access.

The project is a direct response to multi industry recommendations and calls to action around creating national standards for representing SDoH data in electronic health records (EHRs). There is broad consensus that SDoH information improves whole person care and lowers costs. This is supported by growing evidence demonstrating strong links between social risk and an individual’s health and health care utilization. This correlation has led health systems increasingly to incorporate social risk data into clinical decision making to help reduce costs and provide more targeted services.

For more information, contact:

Rachel Borowski
Highmark Inc.