Catalyze Customer Spotlight

Purple Binder: Technology that bridges healthcare systems and social services to impact patient outcomes

A 2014 study found a clear indication that poverty and exhausted food budgets are more likely to send a diabetic patient to the hospital when their blood sugar levels go too high or too low. An inpatient admission for complications of diabetes can easily cost $17,000. So, what are the possible savings if an economically disadvantaged diabetic is sent to the nearest food pantry at the end of the month, before their food supplies run out? Where is the nearest food pantry to that patient’s home? These are questions Catalyze customer Purple Binder sought to answer by putting resources in the hand of every hospital social worker. As Purple Binder evolves, the company is creating even greater value in the healthcare landscape.

Joe Flesh and Declan Frye have joined purpose since first meeting at the University of Chicago. After securing their degrees, the two budding entrepreneurs worked together at a small software consultancy firm doing web development. While there, a small non-profit needed their help putting together a regional social services directory so that health systems would know where to refer patients in need of various social resources. In order to complete this project, Joe and Declan connected with a number of other nonprofits and social workers who had similar problems with ensuring health systems had the information to refer patients to their own community services. The two friends quickly saw a market need and seized that light-bulb moment to develop their software solution —Purple Binder.

Intended originally as a provisional name, Purple Binder is one that ultimately stuck. When building the first version of the software, Joe and Declan interviewed 100 social service organizations to assess how they connected people with their services. While conducting those interviews, Joe noted the large three-ring, disorganized binders filled with loose papers and dotted with sticky notes. As the two entrepreneurs contemplated a company name, they remembered the purple binder from the last interview and said, “that is what we’re going to replace — the caseworker’s binder.”

I think that’s where Catalyze hit the sweet spot: able to provide that level of assurance and still having a strong focus on the developer experience.

Declan Frye
Declan Frye
Co-founder and chief technology officer

“You would think that a simple online Google search for a social service would work, but that’s not the case,” explains Purple Binder CEO Joe Flesh. The food pantry located in the basement of a nearby church does not always have a website, so that important community resource becomes underutilized or goes unused. Purple Binder hopes to change that by bringing community health services as first tier players to the healthcare field. By doing so, the social and economic factors that can affect patient outcomes can be addressed alongside their acute medical needs.

Declan, Purple Binder’s co-founder and chief technology officer, says the problem with the current healthcare system is that it is not set up that way. “We have these two systems that grew up along side of each other – the healthcare system on one hand and the social services system on the other. There has never been a way to connect them before. We see Purple Binder as the technological bridge that can connect those two systems.”

Expanding the Healthcare Bridge

Since 2013, Purple Binder has been providing an informational product that empowers hospital staff and social workers to have readily available information about community resources. As Purple Binder evolves, they are the referral loop to provide even more engaging, impactful connections. They are piloting a messaging portal allowing hospital systems and social service organizations to log-in, input when a patient is referred, and then receive feedback when the patient accesses that particular service…

When Purple Binder began developing the next evolution of their product, they asked their customers’ security officers what would make them comfortable in regards to hosting. Thematically, each expressed a strong preference for working with a HITRUST CSF Certified company, believing that the scrutiny waged in the certification process gives them comfort and assurance levels about being compliant. “I think that’s where Catalyze hit the sweet spot: able to provide that level of assurance and still having a strong focus on the developer experience.”

A Purple Binder Future

As this next step in Purple Binder’s evolution develops, Catalyze will share more on their important role in the healthcare landscape. Currently, Purple Binder serves the greater metro area of Chicago, as well as parts of California; geographically is one manner in which the co-founders will soon expand. Likewise, they will expand equally in depth as they innovate within the social service organizations they serve.

Learn more at purplebinder.com.

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