Medical students create EHR for homeless patients

Four medical students from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine have developed an electronic health record system for a free Baltimore clinic to help treat the homeless, according to an announcement from Johns Hopkins.

The students created the system for the Baltimore Free Clinic using open-source software, and then customizing it and putting it on a secure server. Having an EHR will enable the clinic to better track these patients' care, as well as coordinate care with other providers, such as hospital emergency departments.

Thus far more than 250 of the clinic's homeless patients residents now have an EHR. The system has been used in more than 750 patient encounters, according to Johns Hopkins.

"[The clinic] didn't have an easily accessible record to see which medicines the patient had been prescribed, the previous exam findings and diagnosis, the patient's allergies or whether the patient had been referred for specialty care," Eugene Semenov, one of the four students, said in a statement. "There was no standardized tool at the clinic to collect and store that information."

According to Semenov, the next step for he and his colleagues, who started a non-profit organization to create the EHR, will be to raise the funds to expand the system to other clinics that can't otherwise afford an EHR.

Treating homeless patients is particularly difficult, as they frequently have chronic conditions, mental health and/or substance abuse problems, and come with ancillary issues, such as the inability to purchase medications or to be contacted by health providers. Other initiatives have strived to help the homeless by providing outreach to reduce their hospital readmission rates and offering post-discharge recuperative centers.  

To learn more:
- read the announcement