Uniting for Good – Columbia Business School’s Interview with CEO of Unite US

By July 16, 2016Uncategorized

Unite US is a technology platform reinventing the delivery of health, human, and social services. Initially launched in 2013 for veterans and military families, the company is disrupting the fragmented health and human services industry by enabling government agencies and community organizations to coordinate and deliver services through networks of providers who, together, can better meet the comprehensive needs of their constituents.

Co-founders and veterans Dan Brillman ’12, Taylor Justice ’14, and Andrew Price launched the company in 2013, after noticing the siloed and fragmented resource landscape through their own personal experiences and those of close friends and family from the military. Here, Dan Brillman ’12 shares more on the formation of Unite US and the long-term vision for the company.

What inspired you to start Unite US, and how has technology helped you to innovate in this space?
We united on the need for a solution and the dedication and vision to create it. The issue was not a lack of willing community organizations to provide services for military personnel and veterans, but rather, a lack of the tools needed to improve an archaic industry of manual referrals and collaboration around health and social services. The Health and Human services industry is continuing to grow, spending over $574 billion in 2015; yet, the industry focuses on individual services and programs rather than on an individual’s unique needs and how local communities can provide the best results when they are coordinating services together. Healthcare is now focusing on value-based person-centric care, collaboration, and outcomes, so we are innovating and adding that layer of technology at a perfect time. Services can now coordinate and provide comprehensive outcomes at scale through a centralized system that connects the partners they are already working with and, most importantly, trust.

By developing the right software tools, we enable organizations to focus on their core services, while easily helping clients search and connect with complimentary providers. For example, in New York City, we power a centralized portal for the city, allowing veterans to access and request multiple services when they need them. Once a request enters the system, secure HIPAA compliant referrals are created and sent to appropriate organizations throughout the coordinated network of over 300+ caseworkers and practitioners, ensuring 100% of outcomes are tracked.

Our platform continues to evolve and improve as we implement creative and proactive solutions and integrate feedback from thousands of users across many cities and states. Unite US is able to leverage robust data and reporting to understand and educate stake-holders on real-time demands and efficiency of service delivery. For example, our platform identified in Charlotte, NC that 62% of clients receiving healthcare services also needed employment services, while housing remains the number one service request in NYC. Deeper level data we are able to provide can now inform the community around real-time co-occurring needs, trends, and the collaboration needed between agencies; a significant improvement from the status quo before Unite US existed.

What are some of the challenges of launching a startup in the military/ veteran space?
The core challenge is not that we started in the military/veteran space, but that our technology is pioneering how these services are delivered. No one has ever done this before. So we spend a lot of time educating the industry on what is possible, and that technological change can improve their internal processes, but more importantly, their clients’ outcomes. Our first community network took about six months to launch, and we spent a lot of time with government, health organizations, and community partners mapping out a process that is continually refined for every subsequent community.

Every organization and community has its own unique landscape, with a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. We leverage the strengths and enable further improvement by incentivizing providers to change the way they do business. In hindsight, the military/veteran space was the perfect place to start because it is a population that most accurately represents the U.S. population, and from a product perspective, allows us to easily scale to other verticals like education and youth.

How did your experience at Columbia Business School help to shape Unite US?
As a student at Columbia Business School, I began writing about the fragmentation in the veteran services industry, and how technology can enable government and communities to adopt better service delivery systems and build sustainable infrastructure for the future. It was a defining experience, along with classes I took that helped me learn about running a business. My time at CBS has led to many great relationships and opportunities, both professional and personal. Even after I graduated, we were able to present to the Trustees of Columbia alongside leaders like Ben Horowitz, gain insight from Dean Hubbard, and utilize the expertise of great professors. Ultimately, Columbia had a tremendous impact on the creation of Unite US; and it is where I connected with Taylor and Andrew.

What is your long-term vision for Unite US?
To become the leading software tool that all health, human, and social service organizations utilize daily to coordinate care and the tool consumers leverage daily to manage their care across the health and community spectrum. Unite US will be the go-to technology solution for communities to build sustainable infrastructure supporting the ever- changing health and social needs of their constituents.

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