Patient Care Access News

Ridesharing Deal Eliminates Barriers to Patient Care Access

The ridesharing deal will help patient care access to non-emergency treatment.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Sutter Physician Services has partnered with ridesharing service Lyft to help patients get to their doctor’s appointments, eliminating some barriers to patient care access.

Nearly 3.6 million patients miss their medical appointments each year because they can’t find transportation to the office or hospital. This partnership with Lyft will help patients with limited means for transportation get to their appointments, which will improve appointment attendance and ideally health outcomes.

"Our mission at Lyft is to improve people's lives with the world's best transportation, and giving patients better access to healthcare is well-aligned with this goal," said Lyft Head of Healthcare Partnerships Gyre Renwick. "The ability to schedule rides on behalf of patients empowers SPS's patient service reps to provide access solutions to those in need, and helps remove current transportation barriers within communities."

Patients can access Lyft through Sutter’s Patient Service Representatives (PSRs). Patients must have enrolled in Sutter’s registration, scheduling, and nurse advice services and have agreed to the terms of Sutter’s national call center.

Patients looking for a ride to their medical appointment may contact the call center where a PSR will arrange a ride using Lyft’s Concierge Platform. The Platform will be fully integrated into Sutter’s call center technologies.

Once the ride has been arranged, patients will receive a text message notifying them of their drivers’ ETA and identity. The patient’s medical provider will also have access to the driver’s ETA to help with appointment planning.

The ridesharing services will not be available for patients accessing emergency care. Instead, the services will help patients who have scheduled appointments overcome the barriers keeping them from accessing their primary or chronic care, said Sutter CEO Jeremy Eaves.

"Transportation can be a barrier for certain populations getting to their non-emergent medical appointments, and we're excited about this enabling technology solution we can provide to our customers and their patients to significantly increase access," Eaves said. "With Lyft Concierge, our PSRs can offer patients rides to their appointments during the course of their call, and the patient doesn't need a mobile phone or the Lyft app to take advantage of the service."

Healthcare organizations have increasingly been forging partnerships with ridesharing services in an effort to overcome barriers to patient care access. Earlier this year BlueCross BlueShield expanded access to Lyft services to patients living in all 50 states, which was one of the biggest deals yet.

Emergency transportation providers have also been tapping ridesharing services. Medical transportation provider American Medical Response also partnered with Lyft earlier this year to help arrange non-emergency care rides as a part of AMR’s One Call program.

Ridesharing apps have a lot of utility in healthcare, helping patients get to their appointments at a very low cost, research shows. Getting Medicaid patients to doctor’s appointments costs the government over $2 million each year. Leveraging Uber and Lyft helps cut down on those costs significantly.

A collaboration between patient advocacy group CareMore Health and Lyft resulted in cost savings of nearly 30 percent per ride, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Patient rides to appointments decreased from $31.54 to $21.32.

“Great clinical care is only great if patients can get to it; ultimately, our partnership with Lyft makes accessing health care easier,” said CareMore President Sachin H. Jain, MD. “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.”

Currently, ridesharing deals are proving effective in overcoming care access barriers and keeping healthcare costs low. However, these partnerships are only a year or two old. More time and research is necessary to conclusively determine whether ridesharing services truly offer a better care experience at a lower cost.


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