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My Purple Folder brings a new level of connectivity to the healthcare industry

Medical tragedies can strike anyone at any time and the last thing you want in that situation is to waste a ton of time trying to make sense of the mountains of paperwork and forms.

That is why Kelli Thomas-Drake created My Purple Folder, a HIPAA-Compliant healthcare app that streamlines your healthcare experience by leveraging and connecting existing patient data as a way to keep all of your patient records connected. Say goodbye to shuffling papers and say hello to focusing on what really matters. Focus on taking care of those important to you.

I sat down with Kelli to learn more about her journey and what the future holds for this innovative tech company.

What is My Purple Folder?

It is a healthcare mobile app that helps patients and their caregivers and family members streamline their healthcare experience. What that means is that we connect electronic medical record systems by creating a universal digital healthcare master key so that patients and their caregivers, with permissions, can access all of those patient portals, no matter what city, hospital or state, all at the tap of an app. So that you’re not having to access all of these different patient portals to communicate whatever is going on with you and your last visit, or at a first intake. Everything that we’ve all been through with helping a family member and everything that you’re going through as a patient battling a chronic disease, we try and make it easier for the patient and the family as they are going through.

As I say what it is, it’s not often clear that we sell it directly to enterprises. We give providers, which are the doctors at healthcare enterprises, improved continuity of care and better outcomes and increase enterprise savings. It is always, always, always free to the patient. We do not believe in exploiting people when they are going through a traumatic episode.

My Purple Folder also offers transportation. You sign a release and it is transportation to and from appointments. We have your medical records. We have your labs, your images. You’re connected to all of your different sources of health insurance so that you don’t have to carry your debit cards with you. We have your prescription log. We have your advanced directives, medical power of attorney, durable power of attorney. Everything that you need that’s on a healthcare clipboard that you may not understand. You don’t have to recall that information. You can be with your family member and it brings you back to being human instead of an ad-hoc healthcare administrator and/or physician who didn’t go to medical school.

What inspired you to create this?

What inspired me and the reason it’s called My Purple Folder is because I went through all of this myself. I’m an only child and I was the caregiver for my elderly grandmother when she received a cancer diagnosis. I became her all-in-one which meant keeping up with all of her medical records. I was her caretaker for a good three years. It was difficult. I actually had to step away from being a congressional legislative aide on Capitol Hill because it became so cumbersome. I got to a crossroads. I had to either decide to stay at the office or help with my family. I decided to help my grandmother and that was in 2006.

Emergency room visits became a little bit more frequent. I had to step away from the office more often to help her with going to chemo visits, keeping up with her medical records, being her transportation, being her everything. My family was scattered around the country, so I also had to communicate with them about what was going on with her.

It became so all-consuming. It was like a tsunami. A shockwave hit my family because we had to keep up with all of this just to keep her healthy. We are also going through it with her. I decided, God as my witness, a little Scarlett O’Hara if you will, nobody should ever have to go through that again.

So I decided to take out the pain point that would have helped my former self, like Back to the Future. Basically, if I was able to, at that intervention point, say “here, here you go, this may help along the way” it would have saved myself.

How did you get started?

I began manually at first. I created a purple folder filing system using all of our resources, to have all of these different sections to manage all of the different records and files. I kept updated copies of everything that happened in her last visit. So every time a physician would ask for something instead of filling out the clipboard, I had 17 different 11-page packets that I would pass over to the front desk and they would be just fine. It came to a head when I had to find a DNR which means ‘do not resuscitate’. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant. Establishing my purple folder manually for my grandmother is what helped save our lives in the long run because we no longer had to deal with that kind of bureaucracy.

 A light bulb went off several years later, after my grandmother’s death that there was an actual need. There was a gap in healthcare when it comes to patients and their caregivers navigating their own healthcare experience. With my background in centralizing very complex filing systems on Capitol Hill healthcare policy, technology, coding which I learned as a happy accident. I actually learned to code at the Library of Congress when I had to redesign and code the Congresswoman’s website, interestingly enough, as I’m drafting legislation and handling policy.

I brought all of that stuff together also with the expertise of my family and different people. All of these are very happy accidents, I will say. I did a low fidelity wireframe eventually, on some graph paper. I still have the sketches. Obviously, I did a wireframe myself and it started coming together with the feel of how I thought that a digital My Purple Folder would work.

In 2011, Meaningful Use, a federal piece of legislation that says every patient must have access to their own healthcare information, was passed. An already convoluted and confusing system with all these electronic medical record systems became even more confusing because they now needed to have patient portals. So now there are all these patient portals scattered across the healthcare ecosystem.

So what did that mean for me? I didn’t have to recreate the wheel. After my wireframing and after establishing a bit of the UX/UI on the front and back end, My Purple Folder was a seamless leveraging and connecting of existing patient data without having to store it. So as soon as a patient looks at it with their digital healthcare master key, which is redundant information and some other secret sauce technology, the information is released back to its original electronic medical record system. The patient can look at it all in one tap on the app.

My mother has 13 different patient portals because of all of her follow-up visits. She is a breast cancer survivor. The patient portals are always having issues in terms of being difficult to get in and out and navigate. It’s the same issue all over again. So what My Purple Folder does is streamline that process. It is just one request in. Seamless. Easy.

Where have you found support for your startup?

Along the way I’ve received help from great physician advisors. I have a co-founder, Mitch Butler. We have a Chief Medical Officer now. We were just selected by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute to receive support from them. We are a part of Y Combinator Startup School.

I’m an ambassador with Hello Alice, a female entrepreneurial group that has definitely supported me along the way. I’m a Dallas Entrepreneur Center ambassador. Through all of these different things along the way, I received a lot of support for sure. Everybody seems to have gone through it in one way or another with the family member or themselves.

What kind of response has the company received?

Recently I experienced a true “A Ha!” moment. I was demonstrating the different features of MPF with the program director at the National Cancer Institute. She moved from talking just about business to her own personal experiences and how  My Purple Folder would have helped her. The same thing has happened in a great number of investment meetings. People want to help this scale out to the marketplace because it’s something that they themselves need personally.

It always humbles and amazes me that a business meeting will start out with us going in as a wonderful team to seek investment and a partnership. It always turns from talking about business and bottom line, return on investment, and it always moves on to the people in the room. They tell us very personal, very confidential healthcare information about themselves or their family and how this could help them right now.

Whether we are talking to clinicians, a healthcare enterprise administrator, or somebody in the federal government,  it always shifts towards a personal disclosure session about how they can use this in their life now. That is how we know we are making something that people want, and that people need right now.

Did you ever expect My Purple Folder to become what it is today?

It just came from such an organic place of a need for me in my life. I just want to help those that have ever been in a position of feeling as helpless and as disempowered as I once did when I was helping take care of a family member. It was so all-consuming that you can’t even imagine how difficult it is.

I wasn’t thinking about success. I was thinking about really helping someone out and that first person was me. I was thinking about solving the problem. I was thinking about my own pain point. I saw and I continue to see how many people have the same pain point. It is so difficult. I can only hope and wish and pray that it gets to help meet the need of as many people as possible.

What does My Purple Folder need moving forward?

We are currently raising a seed round of $1 million. Even though we’ve had some successes we do still need funding in order to have more key hires. We need to bring this out to the masses. In order to do that we need more funding. We need a groundswell of support from people who actually see the promise of this product and to bring it out.