About 1,000 Spanish-speaking people—many of them migrant farmers—and 100 new mothers who live in the southernmost tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley are getting personalized health-related messages delivered to them daily in their native language—and it’s all powered by an Indiana technology startup. The hope, says Richmond-based CreateIT Healthcare Solutions, Inc., is that the patients will reap health benefits, and that Texas will be a large-scale proving ground for its communication technology.

CreateIT is conducting the four-month pilot study as a result of being one of six winners in a federally funded national competition. Spearheaded by Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (HIT), the Market R&D Pilot Challenge is pairing six early stage companies with health care providers to test their technologies.

CreateIT, which won the Hoosier Healthcare Innovation Challenge in 2013, has developed MyCare Communicator, a technology that allows health care providers—such as clinics, hospitals or community organizations—to communicate with patients. The health care providers use a cloud-based website to funnel messages directly to their patients via text messages, emails or voice calls; and it has the ability to deliver the information—to providers and patients—in any language.

“There are a lot of minority populations that may speak a little bit of English, but they only read and write in Spanish,” says CreateIT Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Schnitzius. “It’s hard enough to understand medical jargon as it is, let alone contending with translation difficulties. There’s just not a good way to communicate with patients and keep them engaged with their health care once they’ve left the brick and mortar facility.”  (LISTEN Schnitzius1) 15127 TEMPLATE

CreateIT is aiming to show its technology can bridge that gap. In the Rio Grande Valley project, MyCare Communicator is delivering messages about breastfeeding to 100 Spanish-speaking new mothers and diabetes prevention information to about 1,000 patients.  (LISTEN Schnitzius2) 15128

“You have all of these migrant farm workers in Texas who are eating bad foods and have habits that could be changed,” says Schnitzius. “There’s a huge diabetic problem in these Spanish communities; a lot of it related to the food they eat. It’s educating those people.” (LISTEN Schnitzius3) 15129

While automated voice phone calls is one method for MyCare Communicator to deliver information and send appointment reminders, Schnitzius says—even in the underserved populations—smartphones are the preferred avenue. The company has found nearly all of the people enrolled in the Rio Grande project have smartphones with unlimited minutes and messaging. The system also allows patients to ask questions and get answers in real-time from the clinic they’re connected to, with translations happening on both ends if need be.

“I think what sets our [technology] apart is it’s very easy to implement,” says Schnitzius. “The patients don’t have to have some special tool or technology, and clinics or any organization using this don’t need special servers or IT staff.”

Schnitzius says the pilot project will allow CreateIT “to really get some numbers” to illustrate the benefits of using MyCare Communicator—critical leverage to attract investment and give the startup traction in the marketplace.

“We want clinically measureable statistics to show our product works,” says Schnitzius. “A common question we get asked is ‘can you tell us the improvement we’re going to see by implementing your solution?’ This will allow us to actually have the metrics that show if you run 1,000 diabetic patients through this, here are your improved outcomes and increased number of appointment visits.”

In addition to the Rio Grande area, MyCare Communicator is also gaining momentum in Indiana. Taking aim at the state’s high rate of infant mortality, the Indiana State Department of Health is using the technology to send underserved moms at an Indianapolis health center information about breastfeeding, smoking cessation and safe sleep habits. Schnitzius says the state will likely expand its use of MyCare Communicator, and the company is “just a few weeks away” from partnering with the Marion County Health Department’s Indianapolis Healthy Start program, also for new mothers.

“Obstetrics has been our bread and butter…but the sky’s the limit,” says Schnitzius. “We’re trying to target the people who are not taking charge of their health care. The best way to do that is lower all the barriers to entry that you can—don’t require apps or anything fancy. We make it as simple and seamless as possible, and I think that’s where we really have the competitive edge.”

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