Instead of lights and sirens, health care transportation is increasingly featuring Lyft and Uber logos ― and that’s a good thing for nearly everyone involved.
Just ask Sachin Jain, the CEO of CareMore Health System, a California medical group that focuses on senior populations.
In 2016, Lyft signed an agreement with CareMore to begin providing non-emergency medical transportation to its patients. So far, the move has saved his company more than $1 million, Jain told CNBC last week.
Jain elaborated on those successes in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year, noting the efficiencies lead to better outcomes for patients, who can more reliably receive routine medical care and stay out of emergency rooms; doctors, who can more easily manage patients’ chronic conditions; and cost-savings for the broader medical system, as managing chronic disease is substantially cheaper than repeated ER visits. Transportation problems are estimated to cause about 3.6 million Americans to forgo or delay nonemergency health care every year.
“Patients with the highest burden of chronic disease typically have the greatest transportation barriers,” he explained. “Delays in treatment can cause chronic diseases to destabilize and progress, resulting in suboptimal outcomes and excessive use of resources.”
“This is one of those rare innovations where you can both improve the service and reduce cost at the same time,” he told Modern Healthcare.
CareMore isn’t alone in enlisting ― and benefiting from ― the help of ride-hailing companies.
In April, a non-emergency medical transportation company called Circulation signed an agreement with Uber to expand its services to 700 facilities across 25 states. In particular, the company noted only 8 percent of its patients reported no-shows with Uber, compared to 25-50 percent of no-shows in the industry at large, traditionally run by taxis and livery services.
And American Medical Response, the nation’s largest medical transportation company, reached an agreement this year with Lyft to provide non-emergency rides in all 42 states where AMR currently operates.
In a release explaining the decision, AMR noted the ride-hailing company would decrease missed appointments, leading to significant cost-savings down the line. Additionally, Lyft’s platform adds transparency to the system, thereby decreasing paperwork for hospitals, and the potential for abuse associated with “poorly tracked paper vouchers.”
The federal government also could see significant cost-savings, as Medicare and Medicaid (which is a joint state-federal program) both pitch in to cover non-emergency medical transportation, costing the feds around $3 billion a year.
That said, there is one clear area where ride-hailing is deficient. According to Josh Komenda, the president and co-founder of Veyo, a non-emergency medical transportation company based in San Diego, Uber and Lyft need to do a better job training their drivers how to accommodate riders who have health issues.
“We think it’s critical the drivers understand the population they are working with,” Komenda, whose company books about 18,000 rides a day across the eight states where it operates, told Modern Healthcare. “They need drivers who understand the challenges they are facing.”