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Monday, November 26, 2012

An Innovative (and Free!) Approach to Improving Care for Homeless Patients

When student volunteers at the Baltimore Rescue Mission—a free clinic in East Baltimore that serves low-income and homeless individuals—recognized that the clinic was providing a lot of duplicated, unnecessary, and costly services to its patients, they took action. Part of the problem, they recognized, was that it was challenging to keep up-to-date records on such a transient population and that there was little to no record sharing between clinics similar to the Mission.

The student volunteers realized that electronically tracking patient records would help to eliminate the costs associated with repeated care. These electronic records help providers stay informed of patients’ conditions, medical history, and medical needs. They also aid in creating a more uniform process and can help providers make sure they are following the right procedures (plus, no more scribbled doctor’s notes!).

Unfortunately, electronic record systems can be really pricey to purchase and implement. Typically, a clinic like the Mission would never be able to afford the cost of such a system, but by building a system using open-source software, the student volunteers were able to overcome the barrier of cost. So far, the system has been used in more than 750 patient visits at the clinic. This innovative idea is helping the Mission save money while focusing on what is important: providing necessary care to low-income and homeless patients.

The student volunteers hope to get other clinics in the area to use a similar system so they can share information from clinic to clinic. This is a really great way to help these low-income and homeless patients receive better, more consistent care. And the price is right.


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