4 Trends in Health Care that were Pioneered in Homeless Medicine



To make health care more accessible and higher quality, insurers and providers are experimenting with a number of new approaches — from storing patient information in the cloud to opening clinics inside of grocery stores.

Close cousins to many of these tactics, however, were implemented even earlier in the homeless health care system. Homeless patients’ unique characteristics — they frequently have multiple chronic conditions, they move around often — overlap with some of the pressures driving medicine’s evolving care model today. And the cost and time constraints of the homeless revealed the weakness of the health care system before others saw it.

One of the earliest electronic health record (EHR) systems was designed for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program in 1994 by engineers at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Laboratory of Computer Science. Before such systems were widely available, this one allowed multiple providers caring for the homeless — in one case, as many as 50 unique providers — to access a single patient’s record.


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