Disruptive Technology in Health Care – Ridesharing

RIDESHARINGA January 2017 feature from Healthcare Dive identified three up-and-coming disruptive technology trends in health care:  ridesharing apps, drones, and voice assistants, all of which aim to cut costs while providing quality care.


According to mHealthIntelligence, approximately 3.6 million Americans miss or delay healthcare appointments each year due to transportation problems, resulting in a potential nationwide cost of $150 billion.  To address this significant loss, insurers and delivery systems are increasingly providing free transportation to patients through ridesharing companies; in 2008, a return-on-investment study from Florida State University reported that every dollar spent on non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) could yield a savings of $11 in healthcare costs.

In January of 2016, MedStar Health was the first health system to partner with Uber, a partnership that has demonstrated a decrease in transportation costs and wait times.  Early in this partnership, Uber created programs to help drive its entry into this new space:  the UberAssist program, to provide training to some of its drivers to assist patients with special needs; and the UberCentral program, which allowed hospitals to write notes to drivers about patients’ special needs, such as oxygen tanks, walkers, or needing help with stairs.  Building on the success of the MedStar program, in September of 2016, Uber undertook a partnership with Circulation, a healthcare transportation platform co-founded by Uber’s healthcare advisor.  This new, robust service provides rides customized to patients’ needs and preferences, and is being piloted at Boston Children’s Hospital, Mercy Health System in Pennsylvania, and Nemours Children’s Health.  It is HIPAA compliant, includes patient reminders and notifications, and has a utilization performance tracking function to help identify fraud and abuse.

(Uber’s strong commitment to health is further demonstrated in its one-day UberHEALTH projects, begun in 2014 to provide flu shots to underserved populations.  That year, the vaccines were offered in Chicago, New York, Boston, and Washington, DC; the following year, the company partnered with Epidemico to expand the service to more than 35 cities.)

Also in January of 2016, Lyft partnered with National MedTrans Network to offer rides to seniors and Medicaid users in New York City for non-emergency medical appointments; for even better customer service, the company created Concierge, a web-based platform that allows individuals without smartphones to order rides.  This was a particularly beneficial niche, as transportation is such a large spend for Medicaid (approximately $3-5 billion per year).  CareMore, a health plan and care delivery system headquartered in California, also partnered with Lyft, finding that wait times decreased by 30%, per-ride costs decreased by 32.4%, and patient satisfaction increased to 80.8%.

In November of 2015, Veyo, a startup in San Diego, was created through the merger of 2pointb (a transportation and logistics technology company) and the healthcare logistics transportation division of Total Transit to provide NEMT to Medicaid patients in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, and Texas, with plans to expand into as many more states in 2017.  Veyo is considered an NEMT broker, as it manages the entirety of a health plan’s transportation benefit, with drivers who are trained on HIPAA, CPR, first aid, and providing assistance to people with disabilities.  Its vehicles are tracked in real time to help avoid service failures, and the company monitors the potential for fraud, waste, and abuse.  The company currently logs more than 18,000 trips per day, with a 97.9% on-time rate and a 0.03% grievance rate, and has completed a total of over 3.1 million trips.

Utilizing ride-sharing for health care represents the opportunity to creatively problem-solve with existing options, rather than holding out for “the next big thing.”  At the same time, it capitalizes on the ability to meet the expectations patients have for seamless integration of digital technology into all parts of their lives, including their health care.

Contributed by Holly Valovick -QLK