After his first deployment as an Air Force pilot, Daniel Brillman saw firsthand a problem he couldn’t brush aside: veterans trying to access different resources — employment, housing, mental health care — from different agencies around the country. It was the old “one hand isn’t talking to the other” dilemma: Veterans would go from one agency or organization to the next and their information, and needs, wouldn’t follow. It was a totally inefficient process, and it wasn’t fair to the men and women in uniform who already had sacrificed
“I was like, ‘Why is access to these different services so hard?’ And really what it came down to was, these different organizations across health care, government, and community-based organizations like nonprofits weren’t connected digitally to address the multiple needs that people have throughout their life,” Brillman says. “So they had no way to be connected to each other, to exchange information, to attract a client across different types of disciplines.”
Brillman mulled the problem for years, right through his MBA at Columbia Business School. He spent part of his second year researching the health and social services space. Following graduation in 2012 he launched UniteUs with the goal of bringing health and social services providers together digitally because “these providers work together offline every day via paper and email and Excel, but really people ultimately fall through the cracks because they can’t work together efficiently and track people as they move from service to different service,” Brillman tells Poets&Quants.
UNITEUS EXPANDS BEYOND THE MILITARY POPULATION
Brillman, who has been a pilot in the Air Force Reserves for 11 years, fellow Columbia MBA Taylor Justice (Class of 2014), and Andrew Price co-founded UniteUs in 2013. Based in New York City, UniteUs has raised $10.3 million, including $4 million in Series A funding in September 2017, led by a big investment from Omidyar Network. That helped bump the startup from 81st on the 2017 Poets&Quants Top MBA Startups list to 50th this year — a leap of 31 places, one of the biggest improvements of any company.
UniteUs started with a focus on the military but in 2016 started serving the general health care population, what Brillman refers to as the “Medicaid/vulnerable population space.” The company currently works in 32 communities around the country, with a goal of expanding to 100. “Our target,” Brillman says, “is that we want to coordinate health and social services where we bring those providers together to work together in real time to address health and social needs, in about 100 communities with the capital we’ve raised. So it’s really a matter of expansion and penetration.”
He says UniteUs recently signed a large contract with a big health system in Albany, New York to cover about 250 providers across the city. “So we want to continue to expand that type of work with the under-served population,” he adds.
EFFICIENCY FOR A $600 BILLION SYSTEM
“Communities,” reads a summary at UniteUs’ website, “are now going beyond traditional resource directories. In order to truly address the social determinants of health and improve outcomes, it is critical that communities build accountable coordinated networks, enabling every partner to seamlessly report back outcomes to one another.”
UniteUs builds “accountable” networks that streamlines processes at agencies and organizations with standardized intakes, assessments, care plans, structured outcomes, and more, “so everyone is on the same page.” Essentially, the company’s mission is to answer the question Brillman raised when he was doing research at Columbia: “Why is the health and human services market $600 billion, but yet you walk out of a hospital and you show up at another organization and they aren’t connected to each other?”
“I saw the need and the problem and my experience at Columbia led me to build it,” Brillman says. “We are almost five years into this and we’re covering almost 5 million lives – veterans and families no matter where they access services in the 30-plus communities we’re in. And now we’re in the Medicaid population. We didn’t think we’d be able to impact so many lives, but that just shows how technology can make people more efficient. Not displace the work that’s being done, but really be an enabler to help them do their job better and more effectively so they can provide their clients better outcomes.”
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