Innovation series gathers stories of some of the most innovative social businesses around the world that work with the dual aim of profit and impact. Businesses committed to doing good stand out from the crowd because most customers feel good about supporting socially proactive companies. They also achieve a boost in productivity since employees who know their work tangibly affects the lives of others are more likely to go above and beyond. It is hoped that the series will impart useful knowledge for greater institutional support for activities with social innovation impact. Read about SEV’s new investor-led initiative – a social venture builder.
Social business: CareMessage
by Joanne Willemin & Yusuf Jaffar
CareMessage is a San Francisco based non-profit that uses mobile technology to support medical organisations to make underprivileged population in the US healthier. They have developed a simple and efficient way to communicate with patients once they leave a medical facility in the form of an interactive text messaging system.
The company services healthcare organisations and helps them develop mobile campaigns that engage patients outside of the clinic or hospital. In this way, CareMessage acts as a support system for the medical staff who cannot take time to care for all patients at their homes, instead promoting independent health monitoring and self-care.
To patients, the service sends up to several messages per day reminding them to schedule regular medical visits and providing them with specific information regarding their ailments. Providing such simple advice to people allows CareMessage to fight some of the most dire health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Innovation to emulate
Approximately 30 million people in the US are classified as low income. This population is less educated and hence prone to developing improper medical habits. Furthermore, their access to technology is restricted which can make it difficult to reach them. Given these considerations, CareMessage has adopted an idea of sending out short easily digestible bits of information, in English and widely spoken Spanish, via text messaging which has proven to be the most effective communication channel to engage the underserved patients. Statistics show that most people today have unlimited texting subscription packages, and in fact adults who earn relatively less text more frequently than those who make more money. Text messages also have a 98% open rate which means that healthcare companies can be assured their messages are going to be read. This is especially important when messages contain reminders to take or order medicine or schedule doctor appointments, which is particularly important for the underprivileged whose health is often unintendedly put on the back burner.
Impact to date
Since the launch of the product in October 2013, CareMessage has had over 1.5 million patients whom it exchanges around 1 million messages per month with. Overall, patients report that the company has helped them manage their health condition better (88%) and that the text messages are clear and easy to understand (100%).
More than 200 organisations in the US are using CareMessage to communicate with their patients. For them too, the impact has been significant: their patients now schedule more regular medical visits, with reduced no-show rates. As a social business, CareMessage offers free or discounted price services to charitable clinics.
Thanks to its innovative model, CareMessage has successfully raised several rounds of financing totalling over US$10 million from Google, William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation, Pershing Square Foundation, and Y Combinator, among others.