How Telehealth is Boosting Care Access among NYC’s Homeless Population

How Telehealth is Boosting Care Access among NYC’s Homeless Population

In the fall of 2020, NYC Health + Hospitals and the New York City Department of Social Services launched an effort to provide homeless shelter residents access to the health system’s Virtual ExpressCare service. The initiative has grown steadily since then, with more than 5,000 shelter residents using the Virtual ExpressCare platform from January 2023 to April 2024.The Virtual ExpressCare service provides 24-hour access to healthcare for non-emergency physical, mental, and behavioral health conditions throughout the year. The service treats conditions such as fever, influenza, upper respiratory infections, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. Convenient and quick access to these services is especially essential for people facing housing insecurity.

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Data from the NYC Department of Homeless Services shows that as of May 9, 2024, 86,858 individuals were in NYC homeless shelters, of which 32,744 were children. This population tends to forgo or delay care, resulting in an overutilization of emergency departments (EDs), Karim said. Some residents delay care to the point that they need to call 911 and also end up in EDs following an emergency medical services response.NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest municipal health system in the United States, works closely with other state departments to extend clinical care to vulnerable New Yorkers through various efforts.

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