A look at how one innovative nonprofit is using a for-profit tech model to bring improved health care connectivity to underserved communities.
In 2009, Vineet Singal was working at a free medical clinic in Galveston, Texas, a community that had been devastated by not only the financial recession, but also Hurricane Ike. He saw firsthand how the lack of follow-up, proper access to information, and the absence of comprehensive care prevented patients from improving their health.
The experience showed Singal that a reminder to schedule a follow-up doctor appointment or to take medication at a specific time could make all the difference to many patients.
Singal, along with fellow social entrepreneur Cecilia Corral, co-founded the innovative nonprofit, CareMessage, to tackle patient access problems like these. Their solution: use mobile technology to connect patients and health care facilities to offer more customized care.
Keeping in Touch
CareMessage’s secure, cloud-based platform makes it easy for clinics, hospitals and other healthcare providers to stay in touch via a voice or text message right to a patient’s mobile phone.
A June 2013 Pew Research report estimated that mobile phone penetration rate reaches 86% among American households earning less than $30,000 per year. So a ping to refill a high-blood pressure medication or a quick text to remind a diabetic to eat a snack when blood sugar levels drop is a direct, low-cost way to reach this population.
Head of the Class
Singal and Corral were students at Stanford before becoming the CEO and Vice President of Product Development, respectively, at CareMessage. Both were accomplished students with a long list of distinctions to their names: Singal was a Forbes 2013 “30 Under 30” Social Entrepreneur, a Paul and Daisy Soros and Echoing Green Fellow, and served as a student representative on the Stanford Board of Trustees. Any Fortune 500 company would have eagerly recruited them both.
However, a desire to effect larger change put Singal and Corral on the path to social entrepreneurship. As Singal sees it, “Why wouldn’t you take advantage of your resources, your excellent education and a great network to do something meaningful and solve the problems of the world.
A New Model
Not only was the idea of CareMessage unique, but so was the business model. At the heart of CareMessage is the service mission of a nonprofit, but with the goal of building successful, scalable software that more closely resembles that of a for-profit organization.
Singal points out that at first their nontraditional approach had traditional philanthropic groups scratching their heads — particularly when it came to funding. However, they went on to secure philanthropic capital from high profile institutions such as Google.org, Y Combinator and the Pershing Square Foundation.
With this philanthropic capital, they were able to build out a revenue-generating arm that is focused on licensing the technology for a monthly subscription fee to federally qualified health centers and organizations.
By now, the philanthropic community has certainly come to recognize how tech-enabled companies like CareMessage play an important role in their world.
Their technology has proven to be an incredibly efficient way to serve a growing population with minimal resources. Not ones to shy away from a challenge, Singal and Corral are putting their growing business to the test. They have taken on the toughest customers by rolling CareMessage out in the most underserved communities, some of which include charitable clinics run out of the back of a church or free clinics affiliated with a medical school.
This platform is compelling because providers and patients alike are comfortable with text or voice message technology. Messaging is personal, direct and simple to track. Most importantly, it is a preventative service that can reduce health care costs while improving care, and that benefits everyone.
Since CareMessage was founded, they have worked with over 175 partners and health care organizations in 34 states across the United States to reach over 500,000 patients. Singal and Corral are not content to stop there, though, and continue to look for ways to expand the platform and further improve people’s lives.
Singal has a bigger vision, “There are a variety of issues in the world that I think are worth solving,” he remarked, “and, hopefully, CareMessage can serve as an example for solving them, because society can only move forward when people are willing to take a risk and work on our toughest problems.”
Singal, Corral and their dedicated CareMessage team are definitely proving that it is possible to tackle today’s toughest problems — one text at a time.
For more information about CareMessage, visit their website.
This article is an adaptation of the article “The Modern Day House Call” from Morgan Stanley’s Perspectives in Philanthropy, Vol. 14.