Unite Us is an information sharing, healthcare coordination platform that engages communities in order to better serve community members. Unite Us works with many community-based organizations (CBOs) at no cost, thanks to the sponsorship of regional health information exchange CyncHealth. Unite Us is expanding into Kansas and Missouri with Unite Kansas + Unite Missouri.
Two veterans founded Unite Us in 2013 after they grew frustrated with the fragmented healthcare system in which they were seeking care. The platform is now working in over 60 counties in 42 states. Although it is a national platform, the team places high value on local partnerships in individual communities. For example, Unite Us partners with many local United Way affiliates and 211s.
The Unite Us platform is heavily influenced by social determinants of health and the idea that the majority of individual health happens in the community. Unite Us Community Engagement Managers are heavily involved in the communities in which they work and make sure those communities are part of the conversation. In this way they can understand what work is already being done and what gaps may need to be filled.
The goal of Unite Us is to build on existing resources and form partnerships in communities to coordinate care more effectively across service providers. This allows people to be connected to care more quickly and effectively and with fewer barriers. The platform also collects data in a way conducive to analysis needed to seek and maintain funding, analyze care gaps, evaluate impact and see who is and isn’t being reached. In this way, Unite Us works to increase investment in social services and to contribute to systems change toward equity in various communities.
Unite Kansas + Unite Missouri launched in 10 pilot counties, five in each state, in January of 2021. The team is currently having meetings with CBOs to gather feedback and plan further. The plan is to fully launch in April. The platform has garnered significant interest in each state, and the goal is to contribute to improving coordination of care in communities throughout the states. The platform is flexible and easy to use, making interservice referrals and data sharing seamless.
The referral and resolution practices within the Unite Us network take some responsibility and work off of the clients and their families. Instead of trying to find resources themselves, providers within the network are able to do so on their behalf. When clients consent to being part of this data-sharing network, their providers can easily search for the additional services they need within a certain location radius. This also reduces the siloing that can happen in the healthcare system and allows providers to have a fuller understanding of a client’s health.
Clients must consent before their data becomes part of this shared network. The platform is HIPAA, FERPA, FIPS and 42 CFR Part 2 compliant. Consent only has to be captured once, and there are six ways this can be done and 20 languages available. This extensive data tracking makes decision making easier and more informed for community care teams.
Unite Us is highly focused on equity and systems change. Community Engagement Managers actively seek out CBOs that do not currently have access to this kind of tool. The data tracking also serves the equity-focused mission. For example, network data from the St. Louis network tracking the use of CARES Act funding for tenants facing eviction showed that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on eviction rates has disproportionately affected women of color. This allows the organizations using the platform to more easily gather and analyze the data that proves the necessity of their work.
Organizations have to proactively update their memberships, for example deactivating referrals if they are at capacity, have changed their eligibility requirements or have run out of funding. An organization’s profile shows referrals, open cases and a chronological timeline of the organization’s patient activities. When a user opens a referral, they are shown where it came from and for what service.
A referral can be created with three pieces of information: first name, last name and date of birth. When this information is entered, the software automatically checks to see if a matching record already exists in the network. If it doesn’t, a profile is created. Unite Us includes 20 parent services and over 100 sub-service types for care referrals. A map function shows services within a set radius of a client’s zip code. From there, program information and eligibility are easily found. Once a receiving organization accepts the referral, it is turned into a case on their end.
Unite Us is seeking to bolster coordination of care in partnership with CBOs. If you are interested in being part of the conversation, visit kansas.uniteus.com or missouri.uniteus.com.
Jennifer McGlothen, Community Engagement Manager with Unite Us, presented to the KC Digital Drive Health Innovation Team on February 24, 2021. If you are interested in learning more about the Health Innovation Team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.