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Lyft Picks Up Momentum in Curbing Healthcare Transportation Barriers

April 15, 2019

In a world where our roads seem more clogged than ever, it’s shocking to think that a lack of transportation can still provide a significant barrier in receiving life-sustaining goods or services. For some people, the hitch is the simple lack of a car. For others, distance is a factor. And then there’s always the costs associated with both public and private transit.

But the transportation problem is especially dire when it comes to receiving healthcare services. There are reports of an estimated 3.6 million people in this country failing to receive the medical care they need due to one transportation barrier or another—and that trend spans across all ages.

About 4% of all children in the U.S. miss an appointment each year due to a lack of transportation, while it’s the third most popular answer cited by older adults when asked why they couldn’t obtain healthcare services. The obstacle can sometimes seem almost insurmountable for lower-income patients, with 25% missing or rescheduling an appointment for that very reason.

But, while on-demand transportation providers were building a groundswell of popularity among bar-hopping millennials, one of them was diligently working behind the scenes to close the gap on medical transportation.

Lyft has linked up with an impressive collection of healthcare heavyweights that includes nine of the country’s 10 largest health systems, the top 10 non-emergency medical transportation brokers, and the top five payers, with a goal of seamlessly providing patients with rides that serve their needs throughout the entire healthcare experience.  

Through these partnerships, Lyft works directly with providers—Ascension and Denver Health, just to name a few—to facilitate medical transportation for non-emergency situations. It also plays a part in making sure patients adhere to doctors’ orders, which is pivotal for payers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS), the mega-insurer who Lyft partnered with in 2017. Last year saw an expansion of that agreement with rides to the pharmacy added to the mix. Lyft is planning its entry into the BCBS Medicare Advantage market and some other Humana Medicare Advantage plans in the coming months.

The company, which is readying for an initial public offering, has made it clear that it considers its healthcare transportation services a major part of the business model. In fact, Lyft hired its first Vice President of Healthcare, Megan Callahan, in November 2018. The long-time IT executive joined Lyft to continue its growth in the space and to drive meaningful impact.

In its 2019 economic impact report, Lyft announced that 29% of its riders have hailed one of its cars to access healthcare services. Digging deeper into the data derived from a survey of 30,000 passengers across 54 U.S. cities, almost 75% said making medical appointments has been easier since they started relying on a Lyft car. Nearly 30% said they would have been less likely to attend their regular appointments without the service.  

Lyft’s executive team is bullish on its future and believes this is just the beginning of the benefits for both patients and providers. Patients are attending their appointments more often and are happier with how they get there; partners are paying less for medical transportation and are redistributing those found dollars into other patient-facing areas.

By 2020, Lyft aims to cut the healthcare transportation gap in half, with an ultimate goal of eliminating transportation barriers completely. And with eight out of 10 patients saying they prefer Lyft to traditional healthcare transportation, they might just do it.

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