By Kate Toporski, CFE Content Development Intern
It all started a casual class conversation, two School of Public Health students were chatting about medication adherence. That conversation turned into a partnership during an Innovation in Action mixer. Then, that partnership blossomed into a startup that is out to win awards this week at the Accelerate Michigan Competition.
Okay, let’s rewind and meet Confluent Care.
Leah Abrams found herself in class with Andrew Munfakh, both pursuing their Master’s from the School of Public Health, Leah’s in Epidemiology and Andrew’s in Health Services Administration. The two began talking about medication adherence, lack of access, and the communication disparity between patients and health care providers. Interested in finding a solution, the two signed up for the School of Public Health’s Innovation in Action competition, where they became a team– striving towards bridging the gap of communication in medicine.
For five months, Leah, Andrew, and their new designer, Kai Yu, did customer discovery for Innovation In Action. The results? The team needed a pivot. And this is where Confluent Care was born.
“During a customer discovery interview with one of our Public Health professors, we found ourselves interested in Community Health Workers (CHWs),” says Munfahk. “These are people, over 117 million individuals, that dedicate their time to community and global health initiatives, such as nurses, social workers and home aids.”
From that interview on, Confluent Care took leaps and bounds, finding themselves in the app-sphere, solving patient-to-CHW miscommunication, medication adherence, and inability to access resources. Think Canvas for medication: you and your healthcare provider can track your progress, schedule appointments, send medication reminders, and communicate via message.
“One of our interviews with a public health worker revealed an instance where a pregnant woman could not provide the necessary neonatal care for her unborn child because 1) missing work would mean not enough money for food and 2) she had no means or access to transportation,” says Abrams. “And we thought, there are so many resources to connect this woman to free or affordable transportation, and a way to provide food for her family during her pregnancy- why doesn’t she know about them?”
Confluent blossomed with inspiration, creating an app that allows for patients and community health workers to unite. With their app, which will launch in the coming months, CHWs will be able to check in with patients via messages, track medication intake, refill prescriptions, and provide resources for things such as food, transportation, and mental health services. By using technology and apps, Confluent Care aims to improve health care through more person-to-person contact, making communication accessible and more comprehensive than ever before.
Through months of mentorship, interviews, and research, Confluent Care took second place in Innovation In Action. The successes of Confluent Care and obvious necessity in underserved communities drove Leah, Andrew, and Kai to pursue a spot in the summer’s TechArb cohort with Director- Ryan Gourley.
“Ryan, who was a mentor for IIA, allowed us to continue our work over the summer in TechArb,” says Abrams. “The biggest help for us was easily the community. With speakers, workshops, mentorship, it was easy to find the resources you need. But it was invaluable to have other student teams who were so willing help advance our venture.”
When asked why the Confluent Care team chose the route of social entrepreneurship, the response was simple- pursue passion.
“Find a problem that you’re passionate about,” says Munfahk. “Being passionate makes the entrepreneurial process more enjoyable. We care about people, and we care about community health. It’s as simple as that.”
Currently, Confluent Care is deliberating a launch via mobile app or a web-based site. But it will soon be clear with feedback from the judges at Accelerate Michigan. Today, Confluent Care is at the Accelerate Michigan Competition in Detroit, Michigan, where 27 student ventures are pitching for a chance to win up to $10,000.
Follow along with the hashtag #AMIC2016 to see pitches and results from today’s student competition. Best of luck to all of the University of Michigan students, faculty, and alumni competing today!