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Recent Uber and Lyft Healthcare Transportation Collaborations

By Clive Riddle, December 1, 2017 

Yesterday (November 30th) Cigna-HealthSpring reported on its collaboration with Lyft for medical transportation of Medicare Advantage members. They stated that "more than 14,500 transports have occurred through this collaboration. Since its introduction in May, 92 percent of Cigna-HealthSpring customers using Lyft have made it their preferred transportation option, according to customer surveys. On average, participants are waiting less than eight minutes for Lyft to take them to or from their appointments." They explain that "the service is for ambulatory customers in non-emergencies only and is only available to Cigna-HealthSpring customers whose benefit plan includes supplemental non-emergent medical transportation coverage through Access2Care at no additional cost. Participants need to contact Access2Care to establish Lyft as their designated transportation provider." 

I decided to check out what other developments have occurred during the past month regarding Uber, Lyft and medical transportation collaborations. 

The AHA during November published a nice 27-page report in their Social Determinants of Health Series on Transportation and the Role of Hospitals. In their chart summarizing transportation strategies, they state that “When transportation is unavailable, health care systems may need to provide transportation directly to patients and staff,” and their recommendations include that hospitals “partner with ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft.” 

A November1st Catholic Health World article Ministry systems tackle transportation barriers for vulnerable patients, that included these four examples of Uber and Lyft healthcare transportation collaborations: 

  • “St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland launched a program in the spring to provide free transportation via the ride-sharing company Uber to patients undergoing addiction treatment in the hospital's Rosary Hall Intensive Outpatient Program.....Between June and September, 30 new clients logged 507 Uber rides, and 29 clients achieved 100 percent participation in the group and individual counseling sessions. In the 30 days before launch, Rosary Hall had 76 percent client participation in group sessions and 62 percent client participation in individual counseling sessions. “
  • “Trinity Health of New England has pinpointed pickup and drop-off locations exclusively for Uber riders to and from its five hospital campuses in Connecticut and Massachusetts that can be selected on the Uber smartphone app so the driver knows exactly where to deliver or meet a patient. Uber rides also can be scheduled through each hospital's website....Trinity also uses Uber to transport select patients from its Mandell Center for Multiple Sclerosis in Hartford, Conn., for services at nearby Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center.”
  • “St. Louis-based Ascension was the first health care system to form a partnership with Lyft. Since February, Ascension has put agreements in place in 21 of its markets, and Lyft has provided more than 8,000 rides.....Ascension staff members use Lyft's concierge platform to schedule the rides.”
  • “Broomfield, Colo.-based SCL Health announced last month that it is collaborating with Lyft to make nonemergency on-demand or scheduled transport available to its vulnerable patients living in the front range of the Rockies near Denver.”  

The Advisory Board Care Transformation Center Blog featured this post on November 28th5 ways MedStar's nurse-inspired partnership with Uber has paid off, starting off by telling us “Since 2016, Uber has announced partnerships with MedStar Health, Hackensack University Medical Center, and Boston Children's Hospital. Lyft has announced partnerships with transportation service organizations National Medtrans Network and Logisticare, as well as BCBSA. Why have these organization, among others, turned away from more traditional van or cab service? We learned a bit more about MedStar's arrangement with Uber to try and figure it out.” They cite these key benefits of the Medstar/Uber partnership: Patient Transportation Service is now faster; Service is more reliable; Service is less expensive; Clinic staff workflow is more manageable; and Analytics on MedStar transportation support offer new opportunities. 

But there are concerns patients are beginning to use Uber and Lyft in emergent situations. The CBS affiliate in Cincinnati reported on November 9th on The "Uberlance" trend: People turn to Uber to offset high hospital transportation costs.  They tell us that “the new trend is forcing Uber drivers to act as first responders. The drivers asked to not have their identities revealed, but they still wanted to tell their stories of what is now being referred to as ‘Uberlance.’ ‘I said to him ‘why didn't you call an ambulance?’ His hand was bleeding. He goes ‘because you're quicker and you're cheaper,’ said ‘Johnny’, an Uber driver. ‘I've had people get in my car, they're dizzy, they don't feel well, their chest hurts,’ said ‘Brian’, an Uber driver. Drivers say passengers opt for Uber over an ambulance for speed and cost.” 

Despite these concerns of patients taking matters in their own hands and using Uber or Lyft to avoid dispatching an ambulance, some EMS, healthcare and health plan organizations are proactively pursuing such arrangements for urgent care visits to avoid use of ambulances in non-emergencies.  The San Diego Union Tribune on November 5th ran the story San Diego exploring new emergency response model amid ambulance crisis, stating that EMS officials there were seeking “an alternative model where non-emergency patients could take a taxi or Uber to a clinic or urgent care facility and get reimbursed by private insurers, Medicare or Medi-Cal.” The article cites that “Anthem Health Insurance recently announced it will start covering such alternative modes of transportation in 2018.”

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