Researchers use HIE data to identify homeless patients

Using health information exchanges, researchers were able to identify patients likely to be homeless--and created a tool that could better improve patient record matching.

Homelessness in New York City is a particularly large problem, and homeless individuals often are in poor health and "consume a disproportionate amount of healthcare resources," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

To tackle the problem, the government is seeking a way to identify these individuals in an effort to enroll them in payment reform models such as accountable care organizations, according to the report. So, the researchers, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and the city's HIE, Healthix, used data from the exchange to find patterns that could show a patient was homeless.

HIEs are more widely being used for public health surveillance throughout the United States.

The researchers of the JAMIA study found that people who are homeless often visit various healthcare facilities and provide different addresses at each location. Because they provide different address locations, they said, records might be split into two different patients.

The best way to fix that, the researchers said, is to down-weight address information for those who have a previous undomiciled address--such as the address of a hospital, homeless shelter or place of worship.

"We believe that better HIE record matching for homeless patients could improve HIE usefulness and HIE-enabled care coordination efforts aimed at helping this population," they said.

Electronic health records are another form of health IT used to help the homeless population.

A nonprofit outreach group that provides medical care to the homeless in Santa Barbara, California, developed its own mobile electronic health record to help treat homeless patients.

To learn more:
- check out the study