Jan 2015: Purple Binder
An interview with Joseph Flesh the founder of Purple Binder, an app that matches people to the health and social services in their community.
What is Purple Binder and why is it needed?
Purple Binder is a way to match people with community services that keep them healthier — everything from local parks to food pantries, from homeless shelters to mental health. Our apps refer people into these community services and track whether or not the referral actually went through.
There are myriad factors affecting someone’s health that can’t be addressed in a doctor’s office. They can only be addressed in the community where someone works, lives, learns, and plays.
Why hasn’t anyone else done this before?
There have been many efforts over the years to create search-engine-like tools for social services. But they lack sustainable funding, so inevitably they go out of date and fall by the wayside.
Recently, there is growing realization that non-medical community services are one of the keys to better healthcare. That’s why we’re in the right place at the right time for Purple Binder.
For instance, if someone is prescribed a medication that they need to take three times daily with food, what happens if they don’t have enough food in their home for three square meals a day? (That’s the case, by the way, for about 1 in 6 Americans.) Connecting that resource-strapped patient with a food pantry is clearly an integral part of their healthcare.
What is your business model?
We sell deployments of Purple Binder to managed care groups, health systems, and local governments on a subscription basis.
What does healthcare look like in 10 years time? And how does Purple Binder fit into that?
Our view of what constitutes healthcare is going to expand. Healthcare will no longer be just what you get at the doctor’s office or the clinic. Whether you belong to a strong community will be a healthcare issue; whether you are food-secure will be a healthcare issue. Because those are unequivocally factors that impact your health.
We built Purple Binder as a bridge to connect the existing healthcare system with all of the services that address these social factors in people’s health.
What were some of the unexpected hurdles?
An early business model (which won first place in a pitch competition!) turned out not to work, and we had to adjust whom we thought of as our customers.
What have been people’s reactions?
Overwhelmingly positive. Not just in terms of people saying they like Purple Binder, but also in terms of organizations opening their wallets to buy it, and in terms of the impact that it has on vulnerable patients. It is incredibly gratifying to build a solution that has very strong social and economic value.
Have you had any patient success stories yet?
Many! For a single mom with an infant child, a social worker found a church down the street from the clinic that had a program to hand out free baby supplies — stuff like formula, car seats, etc. The church was just a couple of blocks away, and the social worker wouldn’t have known about it if not for Purple Binder.
What are you looking for right now?
Innovative, forward-thinking healthcare organizations and local governments who want to connect the people they serve with resources that keep them healthy.
What one piece of advice could you offer for someone wanting to make an impact on the future of healthcare?
By and large, healthcare is a conservative field — so be patient. [no pun intended.] If you’re selling something, make sure that your customer has a time-sensitive reason to purchase it. And always seek mentorship from people who have been around longer than you.