Creating connected communities for healthier lives

Bambi Francisco Roizen · December 11, 2018 · Short URL:

Pieces Technology helps underserved communities by closing the loop

On December 13, Vator and HP will be hosting our next salon, where we take a deep dive and 360-degree view into one topic. Our salon is called Vitality: Lifestyle as a drug. Join us for a great discussion, wine and hors d'oeuvres this Thursday at HP headquarters in Palo Alto.

This time, we're focused on how to encourage long-term, healthy habits and sustainable behavior around the four pillars of care: nutrition, sleep, exercise and mindfulness.

These are areas in which we can see the greatest amount of return on our investment and resources. After all, it’s a lot cheaper to go to the gym and eat well daily, then to suffer from a comorbid chronic disease later in life due to poor lifestyle choices. It’s sad when anyone gets sick or depressed, regardless of how those conditions manifested. At the same, their plight is nothing compared to those who endure similar conditions, due to lack of resources and an environment fraught with daily challenges, such as access to clean water and time to regroup.

It’s easy for me to say, “Just make the right healthy choices.” But for those in underserved communities the idea of eating and sleeping well may not even be an option.

To understand how these communities can make better healthy choices to prevent expensive and life-threatening conditions later in life, I spoke with Shannon Kmak, Head of Marketing at Pieces Technology, a spin-out from Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas’ largest safety-net hospital, which is obligated to provide healthcare regardless of a person’s insurance status or ability to pay.

Founder Ruben Amarasingham founded Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI) in 2009 to reduce hospital readmission rates. By 2016, Pieces Technology spun out of PCCI to commercialize the technology. PCCI remains a think tank for Parkland.

Closing the loop amongst partners in the community

One of the core products is Pieces Iris, a cloud-based case management platform that gathers social determinants of health for community agencies, such as local hospitals, YMCAs, food banks, homeless shelters, colleges and churches. There are 129 agencies in Dallas alone, such as the Dallas County Community College, North Texas Food Bank, and Salvation Army, with the goal of sharing information to improve community health.  

The case-management software is used to assist people across the community who participate in these agency services.

For instance, a case manager at a homeless shelter may want to connect a client to services at other agencies, such as food banks and clothing outlets. Pieces Iris enables the case manager to submit an electronic referral to the partner agency, as well as receive notification of when and if the client appears at the partner agency. This enables the organization to "close the loop" and better follow a client to ensure they connect with the needed resources. Pieces Iris can also shorten intake time by passing vital information to the partner agencies.

In another example, if a person is released from jail, that person’s case manager might use the platform to make referrals to a recruitment firm or the Salvation Army. Once again, if this person walks into the Salvation Army, they’d be a known quantity and the process of receiving goods and services would be more efficient, and trackable.  

The person, of course, must give consent before he or she is tracked in the system. For some folks, having someone know what services you use and when may not sit well. But for others who trust that the system is trying to help community agencies work together more efficiently to the benefit of that person, then consenting isn’t a problem.  

Today, more than 250,000 patients are enrolled in various programs within organizations using Pieces Iris, according to Kmak. Not all have consented to have their information shared throughout the networked system of agencies, however. 

Technology is just one piece of the puzzle to create healthier communities, particularly in areas where staying healthy means staying alive, and nothing more. But it's a solution and one that's grounded in the realities of what matters: closing the loop - surfacing up information and making it actionable. In this case, client information is tracked which is then translated into action items: identifying the right resources and then making that connection.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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