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Uber, Lyft Launch Efforts to Eliminate Transportation Barriers to Healthcare

Jaime Rosenberg
Last week, Uber introduced Uber Health, a service that allows hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other health systems to order an Uber for their patients. Yesterday, Allscripts announced a collaboration with Lyft to let clinicians to order the Lyft service for patients through its electronic health record system.
In the last year alone, 3.6 million people in the United States missed healthcare appointments. In an effort to remove transportation as a barrier to care, ride-sharing services are using their platforms to bring the ride to the patient.

Last week, Uber introduced Uber Health, a service that allows hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other health systems to order an Uber for their patients.

The HIPAA-compliant dashboard has been tested in over 100 healthcare practices since July 2017. “It’s really a product that’s useful for healthcare organizations of all shapes and sizes,” said Lauren Steingold, head of strategy, Uber Health, in an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®). Partners of Uber Health that have utilized the service include those with clinical trials, private practices and clinics, physical therapy and occupational therapy clinics, and infusion centers, according to Steingold. Additionally, home healthcare services have taken advantage of Uber Health, using the rise-sharing service for staff to go to and from a patient’s home.

Results thus far point to a decrease in no-show rates, improved cancellation rates, and immediate cost savings for the health systems. “Right now, many of them are using either a traditional non-emergency medical transportation broker, which typically has pretty high prices, or they’re using taxis, and what we see with taxi vouchers is they always come in at the max amount, which is typically $50, because there’s no transparency,” said Steingold.

With Uber Health, healthcare organizations can see the exact route taken, the pickup and drop off locations, and the time the ride was taken. According to Steingold, the price of an Uber X is about 40% cheaper than taxi fare.

Noting that patients likely to miss rides are not those who are able to schedule an Uber on a daily basis, Steingold explained that a patient does not need the Uber app for Uber Health. The healthcare provider partnering with Uber Health has an account; inputs a patient’s name, pickup location, and drop off location; and requests an Uber on demand or up to 30 days in advance. Once the ride is scheduled, the patient will get an SMS text message with the details of the trip and can open a map in the web browser showing the driver’s location and the details of the ride.

For those without a smartphone, healthcare organizations can provide a 1-pager where they write down all the details of the ride and hand it to the patient in advance.  

Of the organizations Uber Health has paired with so far, many have been utilizing their transportation budgets to pay for the ride-sharing. “The stat is that missed appointments cost the healthcare system $150 billion per year,” said Steingold. “If someone misses an appointment, it’s this whole trigger that could mean readmission to the hospital after surgery or it could mean more emergency room visits. It’s really this whole chain reaction that happens, so if we could make it that people are getting there on time the first time, the cost can be brought significantly down.”

Just a few days after Uber announced the launch of Uber Health, Lyft followed suit, partnering with Allscripts to enable clinicians to order the Lyft service for their patients. According to a press release from Allscripts, the company is integrating Lyft’s proprietary application programming interface (API) into its electronic health record (EHR) system, Allscripts Sunrise.

“In a first-of-its-kind integration, Lyft and Allscripts will enable clinicians to order a Lyft for patients with the tap of a button through a seamless integration of Lyft’s API and Allscripts’ electronic health records system,” said Kate Margolis, corporate communications lead, Lyft, in an email to AJMC®. “When patients’ transportation needs are noted in Allscripts' EHR system, an automated workflow will schedule Lyft transportation for that patient.”

According to Margolis, tracking boards will provide real-time notifications for patient pickup, estimated time of arrival, and arrival for providers and other members of the care team.

While both ride-sharing companies voiced their commitment to lowering the rates of missed appointments through their services, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the uptake of ridesharing was low and did not decrease missed primary care appointments among Medicaid patients in West Philadelphia. The authors noted that future studies should explore alternative delivery models or target populations wth specific transportation needs.

Reference

Chaiyachti K, Hubbard R, Yaeger A, et al. Association of rideshare-based transportation services and missed primary care appointments. [Published online March 2018]. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.8336. Accessed March 6, 2018.

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