The Homeless Hospital Liaison program: An interprofessional program to improve students' skills at facilitating transitions of care for patients experiencing homelessness

Acad Med

Problem: Traditional medical school curricula lack specific training on caring for individuals experiencing homelessness, and the literature suggests that medical students’ attitudes toward these individuals become increasingly negative during medical school.

Approach: To increase discharge planning support for individuals experiencing homelessness, the Homeless Hospital Liaison (HHL) program was developed at the University Medical Center New Orleans in January 2017–May 2017. Student liaisons are recruited from all four years of medical school and a graduate-level social work program. Liaisons administer a social needs questionnaire to assess patients’ connections to services and identify gaps in care, coordinate with hospital social workers to avoid duplicating work, coordinate with the medical team, help patients complete any needed documentation or applications for social benefits, provide patients with referrals to outpatient resources, and provide patients assistance with a variety of basic needs.

Outcomes: As of December 2017, HHL has trained 70 students (65 medical students and 5 social work students) to serve as liaisons and has enrolled 99 patients. For the majority of these patients, student liaisons were able to facilitate successful referrals to community-based services.

Next Steps: Future directions of the HHL program include developing a formal, staffed consult service at the hospital (e.g., the HHL program was awarded hospital funding for two full-time staff in the summer of 2019, which will increase the HHL’s capacity); assessing the program’s effect on student knowledge, attitudes, and proficiency related to individuals experiencing homelessness and/or interprofessional collaboration; and assessing the impact of the program on patients’ experiences.

Gill F, Appley M, Nix L, et al. The Homeless Hospital Liaison program: an interprofessional program to improve students' skills at facilitating transitions of care for patients experiencing homelessness. Acad Med. 2019. PMID: 31567157. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003004.

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Resource Type: 
Peer Reviewed Research
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Other Study Design
Social Determinant of Health: 
Not Specified
Health Care Professionals
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