Baby, You Can Drive My Patient: Uber and Lyft Make Strides in Medical Transportation

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CareMore Health, a network of integrated medical clinics that serves 150,000 patients across the United States, has long faced the usual challenges of getting patients to appointments. The neediest patients, such as elders and those with chronic conditions, often didn’t show up on time or at all.

Failures on the medical transportation front are costly, and not just to patients who may miss out on crucial care. A 2016 study of 10 Veterans Administration clinics in the Houston area estimated that no-shows — a mean of 19% of appointments — cost an estimated $29 million in 2008 (BMC Health Serv Res 2016;16:13).

In 2016, CareMore forged a partnership with Lyft, the Uber rival that offers car ride services across the nation. Almost instantly CareMore reported remarkable improvements in nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT). CareMore also saved money, enough to allow it to offer even more transportation to patients at no extra charge to them.

Is this the wave of the future? No, it’s actually a significant part of the here and now. Uber and Lyft have partnered with hundreds of health care organizations, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, to provide NEMT. Still, these ride-sharing services remain controversial for a number of reasons, and there’s been sparse research into their impact on NEMT.