Dr. Allison Mathews, CEO & founder of Community Expert Solutions, LLC, spends each day working to address health disparities, and innovation is at the heart of each of her projects. Her work is fueled by ideas from the community. Working with the community, she believes, is the key to solving the health issues they face.
Her passion for her work comes from her upbringing. Although Mathews has lived in Durham for 11 years, she was raised in Dallas, TX, in a family with a large range of income. In our interview with Dr. Mathews, she recalled times visiting family members who lived in trailers that were falling apart while also having family members who were millionaires. It left a mark on her.
“I saw the disparity & wanted to do something about it,”said Mathews.
And she has done just that. She earned her PhD in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. Her postdoc work examines crowdsourcing as a method of getting ideas from the community to help bridge the gap between HIV cure scientists and the community.
2BeatHIV is a research project based at UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease and Department of Social Medicine. 2BeatHIV uses crowdsourcing to find ways to improve community engagement around HIV cure research. The project, which has hosted a series of contests to get the best community-based ideas on how to spread the word about HIV cure research, showed the power of crowdsourcing to get people involved in stigmatized topics.
It was this work that brought about the creation of Community Expert Solutions, LLC (CES). SESH Global, the Chinese headquartered company that supported 2beatHIV, reached out to Mathews to start a crowdsourcing company in the US to solve community health problems.
“I really wanted to focus on this idea of using community ideas to solve health problems that would then bring wealth to the community & create jobs “
She reached out to longtime friends and now business partners, Alexandria Anderson and Marcus Hawley, with the idea for Community Expert Solutions (CES). The trio met on the LinCS 2 Durham project in 2009. LinCS 2 Durham was a research project lead by Dr. Kate MacQueen which examined the use of community engagement to increase participation in HIV prevention clinical trials. They connected instantly as they brainstormed ways to get community members involved in the project, and have remained friends since.
Their ideas, energy, and mutual support brings ideas for CES to life. It was these elements that brought about the idea for Digital LinCS. Digital LinCS is the first major product coming out of Community Expert Solutions.
“I remember we were at Starbucks in January of 2017 & all three of us were huddled around a tiny table.”
Mathews laughs as she remembered this cramped meeting that turned into the idea for Digital LinCS. Their idea was essentially a case management system in app form to address a flaw in the health care system they noticed. This problem, inefficiencies in processing eligibility applications for health services, affects both providers and people seeking services. Providers struggle to reach patients and retain them in care, and uninsured / under-insured people struggle to access preventive services.
They toiled with names like "Right Quick" & "The Plug," before settling on Digital LinCS. Digital LinCS matches and connects eligible people to patient assistance programs for free and low cost HIV prevention and treatment medications.
They began to work tirelessly to make their idea happen & they now have the online prototype made at digitalincs.com. The platform is built from direct experiences of people in the community. Although CES is a for profit company, they have a social mission.
“We care about making sure people are treated with respect, even if they don’t have money or education,” said Mathews. “They should be treated as valued customers.”
Making community members the valued customer is the premise behind Digital LinCS. Mathews sees the platform becoming the go-to source for community members to connected to wrap-around care with ease & efficiency. The platform goes beyond just medications or doctors visits to address the structural and social barriers to health.
“We want community members to say ‘Have you heard of Digital LinCS? They’ll hook you up’,” said Mathews.
To reach this vision, the CES team has also created the Digital LinCS blog. The Digital LinCS blog is your one stop shop for health information, made by members of your community! On this site, you will find 5 tabs:
Frequently Asked Questions: Your answers to frequently asked questions about Digital LinCS
Local Resources: An updated list of local resources for the under/ uninsured
Research: Information on local clinical trials that you can participate in whose results aim to better the health of the community around you
Education: Learn the terms, policies, and procedures that impact your health
Events: See what is happening in your area
Visit digitalincs.com for more information on the software. Be sure to check back to learn more about CES’ work!