Nobody’s Health Should Suffer Because They Can’t Find a Ride

By 2020, Lyft will reduce the healthcare transportation gap by fifty percent.

In January 2015, our team identified some unusual Lyft rider behavior in New York City. At a single spot, Lyft rides were being requested at a frequency we’d rarely seen before — sometimes multiple rides in a single moment, all throughout the day. Even stranger, they almost never originated or arrived at the location where they were requested.

No, it wasn’t fraud. The rides were being organized by a group that worked with Medicare and Medicaid patients to make sure they had rides to their doctors’ appointments. So many people needed that assistance, just in New York City, that they’d hired people to sit at a call center and book Lyft rides for patients on their mobile phones.

It was a moment that underlined just how big a barrier transportation has become for people who need healthcare in this country. That’s why, at Lyft, we’ve spent years working to help solve this problem. We’ve partnered with some of the biggest players throughout the healthcare ecosystem — from care providers and healthcare systems to insurers, transportation brokers, and technology companies. Together, we’re working to build a future where no one misses out on the care they need because they can’t find a ride.

People are missing out on life-saving care because they can’t get a ride to the doctor

Every year over three and a half million Americans can’t get the care they need because they don’t have the transportation to or from the doctors’ office. Who’s being left behind? Senior citizens and lower-income patients find it especially difficult to get to medical appointments, with one in four lower-income people having missed or rescheduled their appointments due to lack of transportation.

In the daunting world of healthcare, it’s easy to overlook transportation issues amongst a growing list of challenges, but getting there matters. The results can be life changing, and in some cases, life saving. For some, missing a visit to the doctor means a small, nagging health problem can turn into an urgent need for care. Chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes — which can often be effectively managed by regular doctor visits — afflict about half of all American adults. When a patient who relies on dialysis misses just one appointment, they become 40% more likely to require hospitalization. Worse yet, fatality rates double in the next thirty days. Missing check-up appointments for health ailments becomes a matter of life or death.

And when people miss medical appointments, not only is it detrimental to their health and wellbeing, but it winds up costing them — and the entire healthcare system. When a person develops a condition that lands them in the emergency room, just that single visit can cost thousands of dollars. The number of missed and unused appointments alone are currently an incredible $150 billion burden on the U.S. healthcare system. That number is sure to rise as our aging population grows.

Driving towards a solution

At Lyft, connecting underserved communities with transportation has always been central to our mission. We envision a world where access to transportation becomes a seamless, affordable, and reliable part of everyone’s everyday life.

Closing the medical transportation gap is a key part of that. That’s why we’ve spent years working with thousands of healthcare organizations to revolutionize transportation for their people, and ensure that transportation doesn’t stand in the way of the care that they need.

We’ve built specialized tools tailored to the industry that have allowed our partners to schedule and manage thousands of rides each day. So instead of filling rooms with people and cell phones, healthcare organizations nationwide are using our solutions to quickly and conveniently arrange thousands of rides per day.

We’ve partnered with the top five health systems in the U.S., and nine of the ten largest. We work with the top ten health brokers that manage non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT). Our partners include some of the biggest players in healthcare, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, LogistiCare, and now Allscripts.

This is the team effort this moment calls for, because the healthcare ecosystem is complex — and solving the transportation gap requires us to reach patients in multiple ways. We’re working with our partners to look at every delivery point across the continuum of care — and fundamentally reshaping the way that patients can connect with the full range of care they require.

We’re proud that patients report shorter waiting times for a ride to the doctor, and that they are more satisfied with their transit experience. Partners tell us they’re paying less for NEMT, and are able to redirect those savings to other critical needs.

It’s incredibly rewarding work, and we’re able to reach even more patients each day with each new organization that joins us on our mission to tackle the transportation gap.

Eliminating transportation as a barrier to healthcare

We’re just getting started. Today, we’re making a commitment to redouble those efforts: By 2020, Lyft will reduce the healthcare transportation gap by fifty percent. And soon after, we’ll eliminate transportation barriers to healthcare altogether.

Of course, as proud as we are, we know we have a long way to go to achieve this goal.

And we know we can’t do it alone, we’ll continue to invest in solutions that enable our partners to remove transportation barriers, to allow them to do what they do best: provide great care.

So we’re going to keep reaching out, keep equipping new partners, and keep evolving our services until no one in this country ever misses out on critical care because they can’t get a ride.

We all know that there are daunting, enormously complex issues with our healthcare system. But patients not having a way to get to the doctor shouldn’t be one of them. It’s something we can fix right now.

So today, our message to everyone who has a stake in our healthcare system is simple: join us. And together, we can make our healthcare system more equitable, more affordable, and more effective for everyone.