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BCBS, Lyft Forge Deal for Patient Care Access, Transportation

The partnership will extend patient care access and transportation for individuals in all 50 states.

BCBSA and Lyft have partnered to improve patient care access through transportation support.

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has announced a nationwide partnership with Lyft to support patient care access and fill transportation needs. This is a part of BCBSA’s overall strategy to address the social determinants of health.

"Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have always been committed to local communities – and to solving the most pressing health care challenges facing our country," said BCBSA Chief Medical Officer Trent Haywood, MD. "A strategic alliance with Lyft will allow us to positively impact and improve Americans' health nationwide."

The partnership will integrate BCBS technology with Lyft’s platform, allowing patients in high-need areas to access Lyft’s transportation services. The technology will analyze population data for 106 million BCBS beneficiaries to determine which patients will need more Lyft transportation support.

"Many Americans live in areas where medical care is beyond the reach of walking, biking, or public transportation,” added Haywood, who is also the president of the BCBS Institute. “As a result, they struggle to access critical health care services, even when they have health insurance.”

“We are committed to addressing issues like transportation that are inextricably linked to health outcomes, yet can't be tackled through healthcare resources alone."

This is not Lyft’s first healthcare partnership. The ridesharing service has partnered with several medical transport organizations across the country, offering transportation to patients in the states those organizations serve.

This latest endeavor with BCBSA will allow Lyft to serve even more patients nationwide, said Lyft Co-founder and President John Zimmer.

"Lyft has been working closely with health care providers to get more people to the doctor when they need it, and a partnership this size with BCBS allows us to reach all 50 states," Zimmer noted. "This type of cross-industry partnership is a critical way to help make our communities stronger and families healthier."

BCBSA added that 80 percent of a patient’s health is influenced by what happens to them outside of the hospital. Those factors, known as the social determinants of health, include environmental variables and lifestyle behaviors.

Transportation barriers, which are a part of environmental variables, affect about 3.6 million patients, sometimes causing patients to miss non-emergency treatment, BCBSA said. Several Medicaid beneficiaries already receive transportation assistance, but this partnership will also help patients receiving private healthcare coverage gain access to transportation.

Ridesharing has emerged as a proven strategy for driving patient healthcare access. In a 2016 study published in in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers observed that ridesharing apps can both reduce healthcare costs (medical transportation costs the country $2.7 million annually) and improve patient satisfaction.

A partnership between Lyft and CareMore Health System’s Medicare Advantage patients resulted in a 30 percent reduction in medical transportation costs from $31.54 to $21.32. The partnership likewise resulted in a 30 percent reduction in wait times, with patients now waiting an average of nine minutes to access healthcare transportation.

The partnership also improved patient satisfaction by 80 percent, likely due in part to Lyft’s ease-of-use. After receiving a patient request call, CareMore workers schedule rides using the Lyft platform. This process is simple for patients regardless of their comfort level with technology.

“Ultimately, our partnership with Lyft makes accessing health care easier,” CareMore President Dr. Sachin H. Jain said in a press release. “Although the program is in the early phases, the results are promising and represent a significant shift – challenging the status quo to do what is right for patients.”

Ridesharing partnerships are new on the healthcare scene. While promising, more research must be done to understand the efficacy of apps such as Lyft or Uber. Additionally, healthcare professionals should work to understand the most seamless method by which they can deliver these ridesharing services to patients.