Purple Binder at Access Community Health Network

This is a dynamic time in health care. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health care providers are finding new, innovative ways to engage and treat patients between visits.

With its focus on preventive and primary care, the Affordable Care Act heightened the importance of holistic care. This includes integrating social supports such as food assistance and housing that patients might need, but are not typically services that health systems provide. And with good reason–a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that social factors, including lack of social supports, accounted for more than a third of the total deaths in the U.S. in a year.

Leading on the Path to Better Health

As the health care landscape changed with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Access Community Health Network (ACCESS), a network of community health centers, sought partners who could support its vision of transforming community health. It found Purple Binder, whose technology provides a solution for addressing social determinants of health within a health care setting.

ACCESS has been a national leader in community health for 25 years, fulfilling its mission to provide primary and preventive care, accessible to all in their own communities. As the health care home for more than 180,000 patients annually who are served by 36 health centers across metropolitan Chicago, ACCESS is the area’s largest provider of community health care.

As the first community health center to implement Purple Binder, ACCESS recognized an opportunity to lead patients on a path to better health by addressing social factors within a primary care setting. ACCESS revisited the hallmarks of its model and the opportunities brought on by the enactment of the ACA to consider how it could transform the way that care was provided on a broader scale. Building on its core approaches – incorporating social determinants that impact health in a medical setting, engaging in partnerships with patients, extending services ‘beyond the walls’ of health centers and removing barriers to care, and finally, integrating key partnerships that add value to patients – ACCESS saw the opportunity to have a deeper impact.

Connecting in Communities

One of the challenges that ACCESS faced was finding an efficient way to connect patients to the social supports they need, at every point in their care.

As ACCESS worked to connect its patients with other community resources, services and institutions that support health, the organization needed a tool that provided real-time, up-to-date information about community services across metropolitan Chicago. By putting information at the fingertips of its care teams and community outreach staff, ACCESS is able to link patients to the right resources that support patients’ overall health, including housing, food, and job resources.

“I would have to navigate through Google and make endless phone calls just to find out if someone was eligible for a service. With Purple Binder, the change in my work has been tremendous, because all of that research has been done for me.”- Vanessa Muhammad, ACCESS Care Coordinator

One of the appeals of Purple Binder is that it covers a broad geography – an important feature for ACCESS, whose health centers are located across Cook and DuPage counties. ACCESS needed a way for all of its care teams, regardless of location, to draw from a comprehensive catalogue of community resources. In addition, staff often need to readily understand the landscape beyond any single health center’s neighborhood, explains Brian Bragg, ACCESS’ Director of Health and Community Integration. “Sometimes patients may seek health care at an ACCESS health center, but are in need of other supports in another community where they live or work.”

Purple Binder has completely changed the way Vanessa Muhummad, an ACCESS Care Coordinator, finds resources for her patients. She notes that before ACCESS began using Purple Binder, her process for finding resources was very time consuming. “I would have to navigate through Google and make endless phone calls just to find out if someone was eligible for a service. With Purple Binder, the change in my work has been tremendous, because all of that research has been done for me.”

Putting the Patient at the Center of Care

“Purple Binder has shelters broken down by category, such as overnight, emergency, and family shelters… Sometimes I see patients that are in domestic violence situations, and now I can easily find shelters that provide the proper resources and care for their circumstances.”

Using Purple Binder has allowed ACCESS’ care teams to link patients to community resources that can best meet their needs. Purple Binder is user-friendly, and provides a platform that aligns with ACCESS’ patient-centered approach to care.

For example, Purple Binder has been instrumental in helping Vanessa find resources and support for her homeless patients. “Purple Binder has shelters broken down by category, such as overnight, emergency, and family shelters,” she said. “Sometimes I see patients that are in domestic violence situations, and now I can easily find shelters that provide the proper resources and care for their circumstances.”

Creating Healthier Communities Together

As ACCESS continues to identify ways to best support patients’ healthcare journeys, it is bolstered in its efforts by having key data from Purple Binder. The ease of reporting also allows ACCESS to better understand the needs of patients in various communities, as well as the needs of its patients as a whole.

Not only does this information allow ACCESS to build its evidence about how to best meet its patients’ needs. It also affords ACCESS the opportunity to build deeper strategic relationships with community partners and realize its vision for creating healthier communities.

Photos by Michelle Kanaar.