The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health) launched an initiative focusing on its most complex and costly patients – those frequently visiting the emergency room (ER). The initiative uses interdisciplinary care coordination to address the medical and psychosocial determinants of health. It aims to improve patients’ health and reduce the need for ER visits and hospital admissions. To meet this aim, UI care managers needed to keep patients healthy in their communities.

Stephen Brown, Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine, UI Health

“We needed a source where our social workers could have confidence in the accuracy and currency of the information.”
— Stephen Brown, Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine

Stephen Brown, Director of Preventative Emergency Medicine explains, “UI Health’s primary service area encompasses 5 of the 10 poorest neighborhoods in the City of Chicago. Our patients often have seemingly overwhelming social needs that complicate their medical care, but information about the vital services needed to address chronic, social needs – like homelessness, mental illness and poverty-related services was lacking.”

“We needed a source where our social workers could have confidence in the accuracy and currency of the information. Several resource lists were developed by individuals but were not systematically reviewed; therefore, many were several years out of date. We needed a single, comprehensive source that everyone in the hospital, including doctors and nurses, our housekeepers and transporters, can quickly access.

Using technology to create a network of community care

Purple Binder built UI’s network of community care through a single application that matches patients with services they need. The application can be accessed from any computer in the hospital or on a mobile device.

Purple Binder gathered information on eligibility, costs, waitlists and intake processes of community programs. It includes resources like emergency shelters, home health providers and nutrition programs.

“Our patients often have seemingly overwhelming social needs that can complicate their medical care.”
— Stephen Brown, Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine

Care managers can search for community services by location, patient demographics, service type, insurance and other criteria. They can also save the resources they use most often in a customizable binder for quick reference.

Purple Binder provides UI Health with the number and types of referrals its care managers are making to community partners. It also tracks trends related to the types of services their patients most often need.

An agile solution developed in response to UI Health’s changing needs

Along the way, UI Health requested new features to the application that would make patient visits even more efficient. It requested binders of resources (like nursing homes by insurance type) that Purple Binder made available to all care providers throughout the UI Health system.

Based on an assessment of provider needs, Purple Binder curated a portal for UI Health’s Intranet. The Intranet is the home page of the entire health system and is accessible to all employees on any device. In just a few clicks, care providers can easily access resources their patients need, right when they need it.

“We worked with the staff at Purple Binder to organize focus groups in order to determine what services our patients were seeking help with,” says Brown. “We looked broadly across our healthcare enterprise, both in the hospital and ER, but also in our Outpatient Care Center, five Mile Square Health Centers (Federally-Qualified Health Centers), as well as clinics serving the severely mentally ill, HIV patients and school-based clinics.”

“Jointly, we developed binders, lists of services organized by types of patients, such as young moms and their newborns, or by service categories, such as housing services. Purple Binder is a key partner who supports our Urban Health mission by helping us identify services that address the Social Determinants of Health in the communities we serve.