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Ridesharing Services May Drive More Patient Healthcare Access

Because of its low cost and ease-of-use, ridesharing services may be the next big thing in improving patient healthcare access.

By Sara Heath

Ridesharing services could play a big role in improving patient healthcare access by making it easier for patients to get to their doctor’s appointments.

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As more individuals gain healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act and subsequent Medicaid expansion, many patients with socioeconomic challenges are struggling to find a way to their appointments. Between convoluted public transportation systems and the high prices of taxi services, patient care may be falling by the wayside.

According to a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, ridesharing services such as Lyft and Uber can improve that healthcare disparity and cut down on the $2.7 million the federal government spends each year on non-emergency medical transportation services.

The article, which documents a partnership between Lyft and patient advocacy group CareMore, shows that Lyft has reduced the per-ride cost by nearly 30 percent. Thanks to the program, the average ride presently costs between $31.54 and $21.32.

CareMore’s success has been measured by patient satisfaction levels. According to the JAMA article, the Lyft partnership boosted patient satisfaction by a total of 80 percent.

This may be in part due to the platform’s ease-of-use. After receiving a patient request call, CareMore workers schedule rides using the Lyft platform. Wait times average at about nine minutes.

“Ultimately, our partnership with Lyft makes accessing health care easier,” said CareMore President Dr. Sachin H. Jain, 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.”

At the beginning of this year, Lyft also announced a separate partnership with National Medtran Network in New York City to help, helping patients in the area make it to their doctor’s appointments.

“Working with Lyft, we’re helping patients live healthier lives by providing reliable, enjoyable rides to their appointments,” Billy McKee, National Medtrans Network’s president, in a blog post.

“Using transportation-as-a-service like this, the health plans and government agencies we partner with are significantly reducing fraud, saving costs, and improving the patient experience.”

Individual health systems are making direct deals with ridesharing services, too. Back in January, Washington DC-based MedStar Health announced a partnership with Uber to help patients access healthcare.

MedStar patients can utilize Uber’s platform through a button on the hospital’s website. Users view estimated wait time and cost per ride online, and then proceed to request a ride.

According to the hospital’s vice president and chief digital officer Michael Ruiz, MedStar wanted to make healthcare access just as simple as other everyday patient tasks.

“Patients expect the same level of seamless integration in health care as they do in other aspects of their everyday life,” he said in a press release. “MedStar is focused on becoming a premier digital healthcare organization. Our partnership with Uber is but one small step toward a future where technology-enabled patient engagement rivals other industries that have been disrupted by digital technology.”

In a past interview on the subject, Ruiz said that making healthcare easier is their fundamental priority when boosting patient engagement.

“When we think about patient access, it’s fundamentally about being able to provide patients the access to healthcare when they need it, where they need it, how they need it,” Ruiz said. “It’s about making it easy to use, as easy as being able to walk into Starbucks and do a transaction.”

These three partnerships are still only a few months old. However, given the success reported by CareMore, ridesharing services may be here to stay. By helping patients get to their doctor’s appointments in a timely and cost-efficient manner, these apps may be the next big thing in boosting patient-centered care.

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