Here’s some heartwarming news to send you into the weekend: A group of Johns Hopkins University students and alumni have created a non-profit database that makes it possible to access the medical records of homeless people in Baltimore. In a country where 17.1 percent of Americans are uninsured, this is one small step towards making medical care accessible for all.
Networking Health is a nonprofit created by Eugene Semenov (currently a medical student at Hopkins) and Michael Morris (studying to be a doctor at the University of Maryland Medical School, also in Baltimore). Basically, the organization provides local clinics and shelters with access to a secure private database. Homeless people don’t have reliable access to healthcare, and when they are seen, they are often in the throes of an advanced condition that could have been alleviated had it been caught earlier. Networking Health wants to help. Semenov said:
“Without access to their own medical records, there is no way these individuals can receive an equal standard of care.”
The system is being tested at the Baltimore Rescue Mission, one of the biggest resources for homeless people in the city. According to the Johns Hopkins Engineering magazine:
This instant access to secure, private electronic medical records (EMRs) is new for the Baltimore Rescue Mission, and it is extremely rare among Baltimore’s underserved populations. But this pilot project, pioneered by Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland medical students, called Networking Health, is attracting attention for its potential to level the playing field for care among the city’s most vulnerable residents.
I grew up in Baltimore. And while not everything about the city is exactly like The Wire, this kind of program is desperately needed in a city where the homeless population continues to grow. It’s incredibly difficult for the legions of homeless and destitute people in Baltimore to access medical care, and Networking Health’s system will make it that much easier for them when they do see a doctor. Eventually, Networking Health would like to make people able to access their own records via the internet, similar to the way people access their banking information.
Photo: Johns Hopkins Engineering