The Affordable Care Act provided millions of Americans with access to health insurance. However, many still cannot get the care they need due to lack of transportation. This has created an opportunity for rideshare partnerships between health care providers and companies like Uber and Lyft to improve patient access to care.
The Cost of Missed Appointments
Missing appointments is costly for patients and health care providers. Annually, an estimated 3.6 million people miss or delay their medical care because of transportation issues. Patients with chronic illnesses that miss appointments tend to have poorer health outcomes. These missed appointments also cost health plans and physician offices as high as $150 billion each year in the United States.
Healthcare providers have tried other methods to solve the issue by creating campaigns discouraging patients from being no-shows. To try and curb no-show appointments, some health care providers have gone as far as to fine patients for missing scheduled doctor visits.
The government has tried to help curb the problem in the past. The CMS, some state Medicaid programs, and private insurers offer free or subsidized nonmedical transportation to their enrollees. The federal government spends about $2.7 billion on nonemergency transportation each year, and that figure can only be expected to grow under Medicaid expansion.
Healthcare Rideshare Partnerships
Now, health care systems are taking matters into their own hands and partnering with companies like Lyft and Uber for their medical and nonmedical transportation issues. Using the digital technology offered through rideshare partnerships has allowed patients to make it to their appointments and lower costs for everyone involved.
Getting a Lyft
In January of this year, Lyft partnered with National Medtrans Network to provide ambulatory patients with rides in New York City. They also have a pilot with CareMore Health System in California. These rideshare partnerships improved patient access to care and lowered costs and wait times.
Under the pilots, average per-rides costs decreased from $31.54 to $21.32, or 32.4 percent. Average wait times decreased by 30 percent. Wait times fell from 12.5 minutes to 8.8 minutes and patients were happy with the new service. In some areas of California, satisfaction rates were over 80 percent.
Uber Easy Transportation
At the beginning of this year, Uber and MedStar Health announced a rideshare partnership to provide better options to access care. Nonemergency Uber rides are offered in the Maryland and Washington, DC area. MedStar health put a “Ride with Uber” button on their website, which made it easy for providers to request rides for their patients.
Uber then partnered with Circulation, a Boston-based start-up. Circulation is a HIPPAA-compliant platform that connects patients, care coordinators, and providers, all while integrating with Uber’s API. Circulation helps Uber provide rides for patients in Massachusetts, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
With the UberCENTRAL, healthcare providers can request and manage a ride on behalf of a patient. This greatly helps those patients that don’t own smartphones. For those low-income patients that cannot afford to pay for the Uber ride, MedStar will pay the fees. The average round trip cost of a ride is $18 but the healthcare provider may earn up to $80 in cost savings since the patient can make their appointment.
Healthcare providers that are setting up rides for patients can also include notes or memos. If a senior needs help up the stairs of their home, a doctor can include that in their ride request.
The Future of Rideshare Partnerships
Uber is just getting started with their health care transportation. They are already looking to expand access for riders. With UberASSIST, they plan to train drivers on the needs of the patients they pick up, like seniors. UberFAMILY will allow family members to order rides for loved ones or seniors who are no longer able to drive or are dependent on others for transportation. While Lyft is currently only looking to serve patients that can walk, Uber is looking to be able to provide rides for patients that are in wheelchairs.
It will be interesting to see how these rideshare partnerships continue to evolve. Will Lyft and Uber dominate the $3 billion nonemergency medical transportation industry or will we new players enter the game?
Have any of you had experience with healthcare ridesharing in your travels? While these programs are obviously helpful for patients, I wonder if doctors are excited about it too. Yes, now your patients can make their appointments, but is there now extra paperwork (or click work) for overworked physicians that already have trouble finding any extra time?