A charity has introduced the first dedicated digital health-screening template to help hospitals better care for the estimated 4,700 people sleeping rough on UK streets every night.
The homeless health charity Pathway developed the template in partnership with EMIS Health – the UK leader in connected healthcare software and services.
Following two years of development, it is now available free of charge to health organisations using the EMIS Web clinical system. It was jointly developed by 11 specialist homeless healthcare services using EMIS Web in London for use by 200 staff. The aim is to roll it out across the UK and developers hope it will ultimately relieve pressure on hard-pressed hospital departments.
The template enables doctors and health workers to create and maintain a detailed picture of a homeless person’s health, capturing vital information including clinical history, mental health and addiction issues, as well as details on housing and financial status. The template utilises national clinical coding and is ‘SNOMED CT ready’.
Previously, individual hospitals were using different codes and record systems, resulting in inconsistent record-keeping that meant some homeless people were not receiving the best treatment.
Samantha Dorney-Smith, nursing fellow at Pathway said: “Homeless people are five times more likely to attend A&E and four times more likely to be admitted to hospital than the housed population.
Ms Dorney-Smith, who has been nominated for a national award for her work on the template, said it would also enable the NHS to more accurately track and analyse the illness and infection rates of the homeless population. She added: “The template will make it much easier to commission large-scale health services, treating patients who are homeless more effectively, economically and on a much larger scale. It has the potential to be a real game changer.”
Dr Tim Robson, clinical lead for the Pathway homeless health care team at University College London Hospitals said: “Homeless teams use EMIS Web for secure and accessible patient records, and a particularly important feature is the detailed coding of relevant social data. This allows accurate monitoring and measuring of outcomes, which are essential to demonstrate that expected standards are being met, and that we are using financial resources prudently. This homelessness template is well set out, clear and easy to use.
Mo became homeless after being seriously injured in an accident. A year on, he is safely housed and helped Pathway with developing the template. He said: “Comorbidities hurt patients and cost the NHS a great deal of money, so it's important that we capture and use data in ways that really help people. Having my health record follow me would have made diagnosis and treatment quicker, and it probably would have saved the NHS money too."
Dr Shaun O’Hanlon, chief medical officer at EMIS Group said: “We have a long-standing relationship with Pathway and were pleased to offer our expertise free of charge to help create this vital template. With homeless people statistically 10 times more likely to die early than the rest of the population, there is a real need for this vulnerable group to receive specialist help, and this template will assist clinicians in driving up standards of care.”