From cost and coverage to time and convenience, there are many factors that can hinder healthcare access. And for an estimated 3.6 million Americans, the main obstacle in getting to their medical appointments involves an engine and a set of wheels.
In effort to reduce the number of missed or delayed doctor’s appointments that are attributed to a lack of dependable transportation options, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is teaming up with ride-sharing company Lyft in a nationwide partnership to provide patients with reliable rides.
“Transportation is a really important piece to have to solve problems of healthcare access, and with over 100 million members, Blue Cross Blue Shield can have a big impact,” Gyre Renwick, Lyft’s head of healthcare partnerships told MobiHealthNews. “An important piece is patients do not need to do anything else to get the benefit of the service. Many people we are transporting today for medical appointments do not have a smartphone or the technical capabilities, so our goal is to remove the barrier to individual consumers even having to call a ride.”
The San Francisco-based ride-sharing company proactively reached out to BCBS, and the service will begin rolling out over the next few months at no cost to patients. Prior to launching the service, BCBS will work to incorporate Lyft’s platform into a yet-to-be-determined delivery model, and it will function as a service carried out on BCBS’s behalf.
"Many Americans live in areas where medical care is beyond the reach of walking, biking or public transportation. As a result, they struggle to access critical health care services, even when they have health insurance," Dr. Trent Haywood, BCBSA chief medical officer and president of the BCBS Institute said in a statement. "We are committed to addressing issues like transportation that are inextricably linked to health outcomes, yet can't be tackled through health care resources alone."
Along with connecting patients to reliable transportation, BCBS and Lyft also hope to combine their datasets to improve community health. While Renwick said its too early to say just what that data marriage and analysis will look like, the basic plan is to leverage local data such as transportation, nutrition and environment to understand zip code-level factors that impact individual health.
With 106 million members nationwide, BCBS is definitely one of Lyft’s larger healthcare partners, but the company has hundreds, Renwick said. Seeing how transportation barriers are one of the many social determinants of health, ride-sharing companies have steadily been working to ease that pain point as of late.
In January 2016, Lyft announced a partnership with Medtrans Network in New York City, and a few months later teamed up with appointment scheduling app Everseat. Both Lyft and their primary competitor Uber (which also works with UK statup Cera to give rides to NHS caregivers and patients) partner with health organizations to help get patients to clinical trial sites. Not for-profit-hospital system Ascension tapped Lyft in December 2016 to provide patient rides, and in February of this year, Lyft teamed up with non-emergency medical transportation company LogistiCare to expand access to Medicare, Medicaid and elderly patients.
"Lyft has been working closely with health care providers to get more people to the doctor when they need it, and a partnership this size with BCBS allows us to reach all 50 states," Lyft President and cofounder John Zimmer said in a statement. "This type of cross-industry partnership is a critical way to help make our communities stronger and families healthier."