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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015 May;22(3):682-7. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocu005. Epub 2015 Feb 10.

Identifying homelessness using health information exchange data.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, 10029, USA.
Department of Emergency Medicine, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, New York, NY, 10003, USA.
Healthix, Inc., New York, NY, 10013, USA.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY, 10032, USA.
Department of Emergency Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, 10029, USA,



Homeless patients experience poor health outcomes and consume a disproportionate amount of health care resources compared with domiciled patients. There is increasing interest in the federal government in providing care coordination for homeless patients, which will require a systematic way of identifying these individuals.


We analyzed address data from Healthix, a New York City-based health information exchange, to identify patterns that could indicate homelessness.


Patients were categorized as likely to be homeless if they registered with the address of a hospital, homeless shelter, place of worship, or an address containing a keyword synonymous with "homelessness."


We identified 78,460 out of 7,854,927 Healthix patients (1%) as likely to have been homeless over the study period of September 30, 2008 to July 19, 2013. We found that registration practices for these patients varied widely across sites.


The use of health information exchange data enabled us to identify a large number of patients likely to be homeless and to observe the wide variation in registration practices for homeless patients within and across sites. Consideration of these results may suggest a way to improve the quality of record matching for homeless patients. Validation of these results is necessary to confirm the homeless status of identified individuals. Ultimately, creating a standardized and structured field to record a patient's housing status may be a preferable approach.


health care costs; health care reform; health information exchange; homelessness

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