More Than A Matter of Time: How We’re Making it Easier to Get to the Doctor
By Minyang Jiang, New Business Lead, Ford GoRide Non-Emergency Medical Transportation
I was studying abroad in Shanghai the year my grandfather became ill. I watched as he underwent major surgery, frequented hospitals and became increasingly immobile. A man who was once an avid traveler, calligrapher and poet became isolated in his home, afraid of venturing outside because he didn’t know if he could find his way around. He became completely dependent on his family and lost one of the most basic freedoms a human being has — freedom of mobility.
The desire for independence, dignity and community living is universal. For many individuals who are elderly, ill or living with disabilities, mobility solutions are often limited. Some of the most vulnerable populations today don’t have convenient access to transportation and aren’t able to consistently get to medical appointments on time. Obviously, this takes a toll on their health and their state of well-being, as well as those caring for them.
This awareness has been steeped in me for years. Ever since Ford started Ford Smart Mobility, I’ve been wondering about how a company this large can take ownership of solving a mobility problem like this. To do so, we’re launching GoRide, a non-emergency medical transportation service specifically tailored to assist the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and others who simply don’t have many options when it comes to making it to their medical appointments.
After successfully completing a pilot with Beaumont Health in Southeast Michigan, GoRide has begun serving the healthcare system’s entire network, using modified Transit vehicles to get customers to medical appointments on time and return them home safely. Healthcare systems like Beaumont can easily schedule and book transportation with GoRide, which employs drivers fully trained to care for passengers requiring medical support.
Mobility solutions need to be inclusive, which means they should be centered on diverse human experiences. Too often, people approach the issue of missed appointments and no-shows as a technology platform problem or as a failure of efficiency. In reality, it’s neither — it’s a human problem. It’s not about simply providing transportation, but actually caring for people — meaning you have to start with the people at the center and figure out how to create a service that truly delivers a better experience for them. In short, it’s about empathy.
That’s why everyone on our team spends a day in a wheelchair, so they can learn to relate in even the smallest way possible to what these patients we are taking to and from appointments experience. When patients are sick, in wheelchairs, on oxygen support or living with other disabilities, picking them up for appointments isn’t as simple as just sending a vehicle for them. Oftentimes they need assistance, and so drivers must support them on their terms, operate the lift carefully, and be sensitive to their needs. What’s hot or cold for you or me may feel completely different to someone who has lost circulation in her legs. A small bump in the road can cause pain to someone who just had hip surgery. What may smell like a delicious homemade sandwich can trigger nausea in someone going through chemotherapy.
A human-centered attention to detail is complex for someone not involved in the medical space, and there’s a higher level of care required. GoRide drivers are positioned to handle all of this and more, going through a full training regimen so that they can properly enable the independence of customers while promptly getting them where they need to be.
For some of our customers, their trip to the doctor may be one of the few times they can leave their home or facility that day. That’s why we’ve chosen the Transit to power this service. We’ve outfitted our fleet with flexible seats that can be flipped up to accommodate two wheelchair positions as well as caregivers or family members. Passengers are centered in the vehicle, surrounded by large windows in a space that is designed around them. The height of Transit accommodates power wheelchairs easily, and allows drivers to actually stand inside, making it much easier for them to secure our customers in wheelchairs. Some of our Transits have grab handles installed to enhance stability as customers enter, and much of the fleet employs a wider wheelchair lift that can accommodate non-standard-size wheelchairs. For bariatric customers who previously had to travel by stretcher, this makes their journey much more comfortable.
The unpredictability of discharges is notoriously difficult for transportation providers, and long wait times can change a patient’s entire experience with a medical facility. GoRide does not shy away from this challenge. We are operating an on-demand service for discharges, delivering a 94 percent on-time pick-up and delivery rate, and average wait times of 30 minutes or less. This gives hospital and medical staff the certainty they need to help reduce their own wait times and improve their services. It also improves customer satisfaction with the hospital experience, while helping to reduce the likelihood of readmission, as patients get home faster to receive the care they need and begin their medication in a timely manner.
Ford’s vision for GoRide is to become the trusted partner in population health management, while delivering a consistent, high-quality, high-touch experience for medical systems and the populations they serve. With the support of our healthcare partners, GoRide enables people to be proactive in their healthcare, ensuring they keep up with preventative care visits. GoRide can reduce the number of times patients access ambulance services because they lack transportation and are delaying treatment, providing emergency medical technicians the ability to focus resources on real-time emergencies and services.
If it seems strange to think of an automaker like Ford moving into the medical transportation business, consider how relatable this mobility problem is. Anyone who’s ever had to arrange transportation for an elderly parent in a wheelchair knows that it takes someone with significant scale and determination to truly solve the problem at a systems level. And the market is growing more than ever. Right now there are more than 49.2 million Americans aged 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is expected to double and hit nearly 100 million by 2060, close to 25 percent of the country’s population.
When I think about GoRide, I think about whether my grandfather would be proud of me, and proud of Ford, for creating this service. We are striving to deliver a service that caters very specifically to someone like my grandfather — one that reinforces the trust they’ve placed in the healthcare system and in our ability to help them live longer, more independently and more socially, and with dignity.
It is all part of our goal at Ford to bring together our vehicle and technology expertise to create real, human-focused solutions to mobility challenges. This is where my heart is. This is how I am motivated. And this is why I am at Ford.