Summit Business Technologies has partnered with a nonprofit foundation to create an app that helps eligible patients, caregivers and providers find financial assistance for crippling out-of-pocket medical costs.
The PAN Foundation
The D.C.-based Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation provides a critical safety net to patients with life-threatening, chronic and rare diseases. Until now, there has been no mechanism to inform patients when a new fund opens or an existing fund is depleted. Patients and caregivers have had to manually monitor the PAN Foundation website and those of seven other patient assistance organizations to find and track hundreds of disease-specific programs.
For a seriously ill patient seeing a team of providers, and struggling to start and stay on multiple treatments, the process is time-consuming and exhausting.To ease the burden, PAN Foundation President and CEO Dan Klein asked his staff how PAN could automate the process to notify patients, caregivers, providers, pharmacists and others when a fund opens at any of the patient assistance organizations.
FundFinder was born
The PAN Foundation FundFinder is the first free web-based application to help simplify the search for financial assistance for this patient population. Users are instantly notified by email or text message when a disease program they follow opens, eliminating the need to manually monitor each of the eight websites.
PAN opted to create a web-based app instead of a mobile app to make it as widely accessible as possible, for patients who range in age and comfort level with technology. FundFinder is available from any web browser on a desktop computer, tablet or mobile phone. The app is updated hourly to provide the most up-to-date information.
A Learning Process
The first app developed by any organization is a learning process. To ensure its success, PAN formed a project team representing every department and brought in Summit due to our depth of experience developing custom and complex apps that do not conform to off-the-shelf solutions.
Over the next few weeks, the team went through a requirements-gathering process to identify needed functionalities for a Phase I launch. Summit evaluated the requirements and translated them into detailed specifications—from login to fund listings to the notification process.
Like nearly every new app, a few glitches were encountered:
- PAN wanted to show the funds available and filter them based on search terms. However, the fund names did not always match the disease category, so the search parameters will be revised in Phase 2.
- The staff initially preferred to send individual notifications to ensure each message got through, but in the testing phase, it took eight hours to send 10,000 text messages. PAN had to move to a batch distribution process.
- The app collects data on hundreds of funds administered by the eight organizations. When more than one fund opened for the same disease, users were only notified about the first program that opened. Once the glitch was fixed, 25,000 notifications were activated with the next round of fund openings.
“Requirements gathering was key,” said Ayesha Azam, Senior Director of Medical Affairs. “Next time we would want to spend a lot more time brainstorming and collaborating up front. In the beginning, we did not involve the developer.”
The right app markets itself
By identifying an unmet need in the patient community, the PAN Foundation was able to develop an app that was an immediate success. One email prior to launch generated 1,000 registrations on Day 1 and more than 9,000 registrations to date. Since 2004, the PAN Foundation has provided nearly 1 million under insured patients with over $3 billion in financial assistance.
As a diversified technology and security firm, Summit's lines of business include an app development practice that builds data collection and enablement tools, industry statistical reports, business operations applicatoins and company-specific web and mobile apps.