Cutting-edge tech powers pioneering homeless healthcare

01 Sep 2017

The complex health needs of hundreds of homeless people are being better served through a pioneering approach to medical record sharing in South West England.

Armed with a more comprehensive understanding of their medical, social and psychiatric history, doctors at Bristol’s Homeless Health Service are providing care that is both safer and more likely to lead to improvements in homeless people’s health.

The initiative could help reduce the financial strain on the NHS by reducing the number of times homeless people attend the A&E department or are admitted to hospital.

BrisDoc Healthcare Services, a primary care provider holding only NHS contracts, runs the Homeless Health Service in the Compass Centre in the heart of Bristol. This Service was commissioned by NHS Bristol CCG, and started on Oct 1st 2016.

When a homeless person comes to the Compass Centre, rather than spending hours trying to gather background information by fax from other practices, hospitals, pharmacies, or prisons, BrisDoc now has instant access – with the patient’s consent – to their entire GP medical record (complete with documents from hospitals etc) held on the EMIS Web clinical record system, or on the Summary Care Record of the NHS spine.

This platform includes all practices in Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire. The vast majority of homeless people attending the Bristol service are originally from the area.

Paper records were in use at the homeless health service up until October 2016.

The Compass Centre provides walk in treatment for homeless people wherever they come from. They are technically registered as “temporary residents” in this service.
In exceptional cases, where there is no chance of that person ever going back to the GP practice where they are registered, then they can be give full registration status. (currently up to a maximum of one hundred patients).

Dr Michael Taylor, lead GP at the homeless health service, said: “Using EMIS Web has been tremendously helpful in supporting an integrated approach to tackling the complex health needs of homeless people."

“Accessing the GP records of clients who visit the homeless health service, with their permission, means that we have a much more comprehensive idea of the health issues that they face.”

Dr Michael Taylor, lead GP at the homeless health service

“Accessing the GP records of clients who visit the homeless health service, with their permission, means that we have a much more comprehensive idea of the health issues that they face.

“Homelessness is a great tragedy, with many of those who find themselves with nowhere to live suffering from very serious mental and physical health issues. I am confident that taking a more integrated approach to healthcare can bring major benefits for homeless people and those supporting them.”

Dr Shaun O’Hanlon, Chief Medical Officer at EMIS Health, said: “Tackling the complex health issues facing homeless people is not always easy, particularly as many of them lead lives that lead them into contact with many different health and social care professionals."

“The pioneering work being done by the BrisDoc homeless health service shows the benefits that integrated care can bring. We are proud that our technology helps to improve services for vulnerable people.”

Dr Shaun O'Hanlon, chief medical officer, EMIS Group
Dr Michael Taylor, lead GP at the homeless health service