As part of the Street Medicine program, Lehigh Valley Health Network providers are heading out of their offices and onto the streets to care for their community’s most vulnerable members.
Since the program launched, both ED usage and inpatient days for patients experiencing homelessness have decreased by over 80%, and readmissions are down nearly 70%. These street visits are especially critical for the many patients experiencing homelessness who also live with two or more serious illnesses such as hypertension, cancer, or HIV/AIDS.
Mobile technology allows providers to access patients’ health records, no matter where the visit takes place. Using Haiku and Canto, Epic’s smartphone and tablet apps, providers document patients’ health history, medications, care teams, and other information.
Not only are patient outcomes improving, but LVHN has also seen significant savings. As part of its visits, the Street Medicine team provides patients with the forms required to enroll in Medicare or Medicaid. When equipped with insurance to cover the preventive care they need, patients use high-cost emergency services less frequently. When the program began, less than a quarter of enrolled patients were insured. Now, over 75% are covered.
“We call our approach ‘love with grit,’” said Laura LaCroix, former clinical coordinator for the LVHN Street Medicine Community Health Department. “We believe that every patient matters, no matter where they live, so these patients deserve the same level of care that patients in our primary care clinic receive.”