Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless considers itself the “safety net for the safety net.”
The organization started as a demonstration initiative, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pew Memorial Trusts in 1985. It provides primary health, dental, mental, and addiction care to homeless individuals and families, both at a centralized location and in the field.
Considering the often-wayward nature of homeless people, this is easier said than done. J.J. Otero, the IT manager at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (AHCH), says that one of the biggest challenges the organization faces is providing direct care to the patient on location.
While tracking patient data through any kind of integrated system is hard enough; doing it when those patients are homeless only amplifies the problem. Many times, the caregivers do not know if the patient they are seeing has taken a certain test, been treated for a certain disease, or has medication issues.
Albuquerque’s population health initiative relies on the use of electronic health record (EHR) technology from Greenway Health (Carrolltown, Ga.-based) to counter this issue. When providers are out in the field doing outreaches, they can access accurate patient records and send updated information back to the home clinic. This takes a lot of the guesswork that was happening in the past.
Otero notes that this doesn’t just apply to medical data, but behavioral health data as well. “They have the ability to document right then and there, without having to take down notes on paper, scan it, and come back and write a note from memory. That really makes the behavioral health data much more accurate,” he says.
Clinical application specialist, Thomas Hohner, does note that there is still a lack of support for behavioral health in these kinds of EHR systems, industry-wide. Even though there is flexibility within the system, he says there is not a major focus in the system towards behavioral health stylization. “That’s a massive challenge for us because behavioral health is half of what we do here,” he says.
One of the bonuses of the Greenway EHR, PrimeSUITE, is it allows for real-time data tracking that doesn’t affect the provider’s workflow, says Hohner. This can be extracted out the back-end for reporting, which he says is a “Godsend.”
The technology from Greenway also runs analytics, which allows AHCH to track locations and look at the bigger picture. “We’re making predictions based on previous data we’ve collected at outreach. As we collect more data, we can continue to prove those trend lines and anticipate different things we’re going to encounter when we send providers to an outreach,” Hohner says.
To Otero, using Greenway’s EHR technology for population health is all about business and personnel. IT, he says, is a business tool and it has to make sense in that regard. It also has to work for the providers who utilize it.
“We’ve come a long way from paper. That journey is not an easy journey, especially when you’re trying to change the mindset of that “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. It’s a culture change that requires patience and the ability to make the translation from IT to what’s in it for you. For IT groups, it not only has to make perfect business sense, [but you have to show], what’s in it for the provider,” Otero says.