How hospitals are using 'street medicine' to treat homeless

Hospitals nationwide continue to look for ways to reduce costs while providing quality care to patients. One tool that has worked for Allentown, Pa.-based Lehigh Valley Health Network is its street medicine program, which provides homeless individuals with basic primary care, according to The Washington Post.

The program, led by physician assistant Brett Feldman, treats homeless patients living on the streets or in soup kitchens and shelters. According to the program website, this no-cost treatment includes medications, laboratory tests and diagnostic studies. The Washington Post reports it also helps homeless people with other tasks, such as enrolling in Medicaid and applying for Social Security disability benefits. The program includes a street team, various sites at soup kitchens and shelters, and inpatient consults.

And LVHN has seen positive results. According to the report, the street medicine program has cut unnecessary emergency room visits and admissions, resulting in a $3.7 million increase to LVHN's bottom line in fiscal year 2017. The program is funded by grants as well as the health system, and takes care of roughly 1,500 people annually.

LVHN is not the only healthcare organization to be involved in street medicine. The report also references Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center's street psychiatry program. That program, the report states, involves medical residents visiting homeless people in the area camps and handing out clothing and other items, as well as providing prescriptions to the homeless around Nashville.

For more on this story, including street medicine programs nationwide, read the full report here.



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