Hospitals

How Aunt Bertha could help hospitals reduce readmissions

For many patients with complex conditions, the main problem is not medicines or even access to healthcare. It’s everything else: food, housing, transportation, money. One pilot project designed to help some of the most expensive patients in Camden, New Jersey, found that it was getting help to meet those basic needs that kept patients out […]

For many patients with complex conditions, the main problem is not medicines or even access to healthcare. It’s everything else: food, housing, transportation, money. One pilot project designed to help some of the most expensive patients in Camden, New Jersey, found that it was getting help to meet those basic needs that kept patients out of the hospital. They did need help with medication reconciliation, but they also needed a way to get to the doctor. Or help buying food. Or help applying for disability benefits.

Now that all hospitals are focused on reducing readmissions and making discharge care easier to families and patients to understand and implement, this approach could help all patients, not just the sickest and neediest. A startup in Austin is focused on making it easier to find these services. Aunt Bertha has a beautiful web site and a helpful database that makes it easy to get help with food, work, medical care and housing, among other things.

The team at Aunt Bertha is part of the Capital Factory accelerator in Austin. Co-founder Erine Gray pitched the company at Dell Tech Innovators Day earlier this year:

He got inspired to create the company after he became his disabled mother’s guardian at the age of 26. He had to find services and help for her and he didn’t know where to go. Founded in September of 2010, Aunt Bertha has four full time employees, an intern and two contractors. More than 23,000 people have searched for services using Aunt Bertha.

The search function is strong and the site is well-organized. Part of the site helps people figure out if they qualify for the services.

Gray has said that one of his goals for this service was to put dignity back into the process of finding and using social services. This web-based, self-service model is much better than standing in line at a county building to wait to talk to a bureaucrat or digging through outdated web sites to find the right services.

Aunt Bertha started in Texas, so the database is the most comprehensive for services in that state. The team has expanded the listings to include a few surrounding states, but his service should be nationwide. This is the perfect opportunity for a hospital or health system to invest in a tech-centric, non-medical tool that could help patients. Aunt Bertha could be integrated into the discharge process in several ways.

Nurses or care coordinators could hand out a brochure as a patient was discharged. A link to the site and a short description could be added to e-mail communications with patients. Aunt Bertha could be added to the script for follow-up calls after discharge.