How to Share Data: A Practical Guide for Health and Homeless Systems of Care

Homebase


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This practical guide is intended to serve as a tool for communities at any stage of engagement in cross-sector data sharing between health and homeless systems of care. It is designed to help communities ready to start such efforts for the first time, as well as those that have room to grow their data sharing efforts. The guide is a follow-up to the report Breaking Down Silos: How to Share Data to Improve the Health of People Experiencing Homelessness, published in July 2021, which provides deeper background regarding the context and challenges of data sharing and lays out efforts underway to collaborate in many California communities.

With focus and planning, cross-sector data sharing can facilitate more robust and effective responses to ensure that people with complex care needs can become stably housed and remain healthy. There is no templated approach to cross-sector data sharing that will work for all communities. Each community has unique partnerships, infrastructure, policies, and procedures that need to be considered when developing data sharing efforts. However, lessons learned from communities that have already implemented data sharing can guide others’ efforts.

What is “cross-sector data sharing”? Historically, agencies and organizations have been siloed, working to promote housing or health care without recognizing or addressing that they may often be working on behalf of the same clients or patients. They collect information about their clients or patients separately. They analyze and report about their experiences separately. In the past few decades, efforts have been made to share data among similar organizations within sectors using shared or like technologies. The most well-known is the health care sector’s commitment to electronic health records that allow data sharing between hospitals, physician offices, pharmacies, and health care organizations.

Data sharing across different sectors, however, has been embraced more slowly by some care systems. Often it is due to different legal, technological, historical, cultural, and disciplinary approaches to how each sector collects and analyzes data. Throughout this guide, the authors focus on cross-sector data sharing — encouraging agencies and organizations that work in the health and homeless systems of care to break down the silos and collaborate to better serve their clients and patients.

About the Authors

Lauren Larin, PhD, is a directing analyst, and Julie Silas, JD, is a directing attorney at Homebase, a nonprofit of legal, policy, and subject matter experts who work at the community, state, and national level to build capacity and to develop and implement effective programs and systems to prevent and end homelessness. The content in this report is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Homebase does not enter into attorney-client relationships.