Health Center News

Technology Advances into Community Health

PNG_-_Texting-on-Smartphone-332x508Our guest blogger today is Jason Patnosh, Associate Vice President, Partnership and Resource Development, NACHC.
Health care technology is improving health outcomes one community at a time. With sizeable support from Silicon Valley firms, CareMessage was launched to bring short message service (SMS) technology tools to the medically underserved.

“The founding team at CareMessage has had deep experiences both working in safety net settings and personally benefiting from community health centers while growing up,” explains CEO and co-founder Vineet Singal. “We are excited about partnering with hundreds of health centers over the next several years, moving us closer to our goal of ensuring that America’s underserved populations have the medical resources they need to live healthy, fulfilling, and productive lives.”

Using basic phone technology makes sense for a lot of reasons, as 92% of Americans own a cellphone according to the Pew Internet Project. Text messaging accounts for 79 percent of cell and smart phone use. Also, low income households are increasingly reliant on cell phones for online access.  CareMessage has committed $1 million to year-long engagements with health centers, Primary Care Associations (PCAs) and Health Center Controlled Networks through a pilot with NACHC. There is also a project underway to target health centers in California through a partnership with the California Primary Care Association (CPCA).

Health centers are using the SMS technology in a variety of ways, such as texting reminders to patients for flu shots, health fairs, and prescription refills. A case in point is ARCare,  which serves rural residents at 30 locations over northeaster Arkansas. Chief Information Officer Greg Wolverton says SMS was a logical next step because patients “love to be able to receive proactive information and education regularly.” So far, the results are paying off.  Since July 2015, over 25,000 messages, including reminders and diabetes health education messages, have gone out to more than 14,000 patients through ARCare’s use of CareMessage. Less than one percent opted out.

Another health center, ChapCare, in Pasadena, CA, uses the SMS platform on two fronts: “First, we utilize CareMessage to send reminder texts to clients along the health insurance enrollment continuum,” explains Steven Abramson, Director of Development and Marketing. “For example, we may have someone who has enrolled, but our records show they have not made their first payment. We would send them a specific message. For this purpose, we utilize CareMessage in conjunction with PointCare (a web-based health insurance screening tool). We run client reports in PointCare, export the reports into excel, and upload them into CareMessage to send the specific message to the clients we want.”  The health center is also taking part in pilot-study in conjunction with UC-Berkeley, “Under the pilot (study), 50 ChapCare patients with diabetes were enrolled on the CareMessage platform, and have been sent health education text messages for 12 weeks to test whether the enhanced health education supports improved outcomes. Early qualitative input has shown that patients seem to like the program, and we’ve had very little patient dropout. If successful, we plan to conduct an expanded rollout at our other health center locations.”

CareMessage has drawn interest from other funding partners, such as the National Institutes for Health, The Pershing Square Foundation, and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation to name a few. This ensures CareMessage can support their non-profit status and bring SMS technologies to Community Health Centers at affordable rates.

1 Comment

  1. A great concept! There is a very high percentage of elderly patients that now have smart phones and that number is growing. Capitalizing on this to create technology to help keep them independent longer is a must. Thanks for sharing!

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