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Study: Data Used in HIE Can Identify Homeless Patients

February 12, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
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Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City have used data from a health information exchange (HIE) to identify homeless patients, which could lead to improved care for this population.
The researchers examined Healthix, a New York-based HIE, to see if they could identify patterns that would indicate when someone was homeless. As the researchers noted, homeless patients experience worse outcomes (a 3-4 fold increase in mortality rate) and consume a disproportionate amount of healthcare resources (four times more than the average Medicaid patient) compared to the rest of the population. If homeless patients are to participate in care coordination efforts, they'll have to first be identified, a herculean change for many healthcare providers. 
The Mount Sinai researchers used the data to match the patients' record with their names and date of birth. From there, they assigned the patients to appropriate address categories based on their registration forms. They were able to discover that homeless patients visited, on average, 2.02 healthcare facilities compared to 1.59 from domiciled patients. A majority of homeless patients made a transition between a proxy and non-proxy address, some even making four transitions. 
The researchers believe other HIEs could make similar discoveries. "Hospitals and HIEs use algorithms that rely on patient demographic data, including address data, to match patient records," they write in the discussion. They believe if a patient registers with two different addresses, as the homeless tend to do, there are algorithms that could make this fact be known. 
Their research was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA). 

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