The U.S. is home to more than 230 million smartphones. Every population, young and old, rich and poor, are among the many users. Not surprisingly, smartphones have become a vital tool in helping the nation’s most vulnerable population. For the homeless, a mobile phone can be a lifeline to a spectrum of services, timely information, and a connection to their community.
For healthcare professionals seeking to improve outcomes, smartphones make coordinated care a reality. Various programs are now putting mobile phones in the hands of those living on the streets or moving between temporary housing. There are many practical reasons for these programs, all with the goal of creating greater stability in lives fraught with uncertainty.
The federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission, has advanced the Lifeline program for providing no-cost or low-cost phones and cellular programs since 2005. These programs aren’t without controversy, and the "Obama Phones," as many have called the FCC’s Lifeline program, may be under threat of cutbacks with the new presidential administration.
The State of California has been a leader in providing phones for the homeless, and private firms, especially those in the technology-rich Bay Area have also begun to address the issue. Google stepped forward and underwrote the creation of the San Jose non-profit Community Technology Alliance (CTA), which distributes free smartphones to those in need through a program called Mobile 4 All.
In order to improve collaboration with the homeless and others in low-income communities, there needs to be reliable and steady communication. Mobile phones can assist in managing the social determinants of health.
“There’s a strong relation between communication and people getting housed and finding the resources they need to get on their feet,” Julia Burkhead, CTA’s deputy director, told the San Jose Inside in 2014. “This is all part of our broader mission: to use technology to end homelessness.”
With a smartphone, the homeless not only have access to find resources for housing, but they also have immediate and accessible means to manage their healthcare schedule and to contact emergency health and safety services when needed. The phone also allows caregivers to connect to homeless clients to confirm or reschedule appointments, and for off-schedule wellness check-ins that can’t always, or do not need to be done face-to-face.
Additionally, as chronic care management remains a challenge, especially among vulnerable populations, mobile phones can also assist in engaging the homeless patient to adhere to their care plan. A 2012 study found that when homeless patients were given phones and called with a reminder to take their medication, participants reported 100% adherence with their prescribed medication regimen.
Technology is changing every facet of healthcare, including care for our most vulnerable populations. The stability brought from access to a modern, up-to-date form of communications such as a smartphone is key to keeping the homeless population connected and engaged. At Healthify, we support the efforts of caregivers and program providers to put the most helpful technologies in the hands of the people who need them most. As a software company supporting health plans, hospitals, and provider networks, we know firsthand the benefits technology can play in managing a patient’s health.
If you're interested in learning more about how Healthify can help your organization coordinate care, please reach out to us using the link below!