Caring for trafficked and unidentified patients in the EHR shadows: Shining a light by sharing the data

Sara H. Katsanis, Elaine Huang, Amanda Young, Victoria Grant, Elizabeth Warner, Sharon Larson, Jennifer K. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective Healthcare providers have key roles in the prevention of, detection of, and interventions for human trafficking. Yet caring for trafficked persons is particularly challenging: patients whose identities are unknown, unreliable, or false could receive subpar care from providers delivering care in a vacuum of relevant information. The application of precision medicine principles and integration of biometric data (including genetic information) could facilitate patient identification, enable longitudinal medical records, and improve continuity and quality of care for this vulnerable patient population. Scant empirical data exist regarding healthcare system preparedness and care for the needs of this vulnerable population nor data on perspectives on the use and risks of biometrics or genetic information for trafficked patients. Methods To address this gap, we conducted mixed-methods research involving semi-structured interviews with key informants, which informed a subsequent broad survey of physicians and registered nurses. Results Our findings support the perception that trafficked persons obtain care yet remain unnoticed or undocumented in the electronic health record. Our survey findings further reveal that healthcare providers remain largely unaware of human trafficking issues and are inadequately prepared to provide patient-centered care for trafficked and unidentified patients. Conclusion Meaningful efforts to design and implement precision medicine initiatives in an inclusive way that optimizes impacts are unlikely to succeed without concurrent efforts to increase general awareness of and preparedness to care for trafficked persons. Additional research is needed to examine properly the potential utility for biometrics to improve the delivery of care for trafficked patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0213766
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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