Kevin Dwyer, CEO of HealthConnect.Link, has made it his mission to connect low-income and uninsured people to affordable health and social services.
His nonprofit startup aims to create an online network between service providers so that people needing care can learn about places that have needed services.
According to him, there is a bigger need for this kind of connected platform in the Madison area than many might realize.
“This is a major problem,” Dwyer told WisBusiness.com. “There are tens of thousands of people who are living at or near the federal poverty limit in Dane County, almost 24,000 who are uninsured in Dane County, so it’s a fairly substantial issue–especially when you take into consideration the number of physicians per capita and the number of nonprofits per capita.”
He says other online resources for assembling service information on nonprofits would lump those data together into dense, hard-to-navigate databases.
“That’s not the most effective way to prioritize how information is disseminated,” Dwyer said. “So I thought, wouldn’t it make more sense to organize this information in a way that is more relevant the priorities of a low-income patient?”
That means taking information like proximity, ability to provide care, hours of operation and current availability of space, and making it easy to access both for people seeking care and for providers.
Doctors will be able to use the platform to make a referral to organizations better suited to specific cases, leading to “a high probability of a good outcome” for patients.
“That’s the question we are trying to answer: Who can help me right now?” Dwyer said. “There are agencies that might have a six-month backlog, and they still get people showing up saying ‘I was told I can get help today.’ That’s not good for anybody.”
He says the final version of the platform will be able to connect people with resources in under 60 seconds.
HealthConnect.link would display the services available at particular locations, mapping them on a “simple and intuitive” map feature with different colored pins indicating availability status.
“If you’re an emergency shelter and you happen to have beds that night, you can leave them as available until that resource is consumed, then you can switch it off,” Dwyer said. “That goes for any other type of resource.”
The prototype site is set to go online for testing in two or three weeks, said Dwyer, who added that process could be finished in three or four months.
He works with a team of volunteers and developers to make his vision of helping others a reality.
“When I started the project, everything was about trying to help people who need help the most,” he said. “For someone in that situation, nothing is simple, nothing is easy. I figured that a great place to start would be increasing their access to good information.”
In the next five years, Dwyer sees the Dane County pilot site expanding throughout Wisconsin, and then to other non-Medicaid expansion states, at which point the company would start hiring more and providing alternative language versions of the site. If all goes according to plan, the network would eventually spread to all remaining states in the country.
“We’re currently working on a strategic planning process to prioritize which counties in Wisconsin we would target first, and we really want to include our community partners in that as well, as well as other stakeholders in our community, so they can provide some direction,” he said.
Among others, the Community Action Coalition, SSM Health, UnityPoint Health – Meriter, Home Health United, Wisconsin Association of Free & Charitable Clinics and the UW-Madison School of Social Work have all signed on as community partners.
“It’s become easier and easier to sign people up,” Dwyer said.
–By Alex Moe