New Jersey health care systems increasingly are using ride-share services such as Lyft and Uber to shuttle patients, and the trend is expected to grow.
Hackensack Meridian Health, the state’s largest hospital system, recently signed a partnership to make San Francisco-based Lyft its primary ride-share provider. HMH will pay Lyft to give rides to elderly and low-income patients to and from medical facilities at all 16 of its hospitals.
“Our health care business is significant and growing in New Jersey,” said Ann Ferracane, Lyft’s general manager for New Jersey. “Our enterprise team focuses on health care as a vertical, as well as corporate travel. In health care, I do think there’s room for growth in terms of health care. We’ve partnered with Hackensack Meridian and Hunterdon, and we expect that business to grow.”
Lyft’s partnership HMH began three months ago with a pilot program for JFK Medical Center in Edison, which HMH recently acquired. In the pilot program, JFK Medical used Lyft’s digital, centralized ride-share command center to provide on-demand, non-emergency medical transportation for patients who have difficulty getting medical care due to transportation issues, rather than simply giving vouchers to patients for taxi rides.
JFK Medical was able to reduce transportation costs by 25 percent in three months partnering with Lyft. With Lyft’s technology, patient rides can be requested in seconds.
Under the partnership, each of HMH’s 16 hospitals will be digitally mapped with designated pick-up and drop-off locations to help drivers and patients find one another, with the goal of having the centralized command center connect Lyft to patients, care coordinators and providers.
Ferracane emphasized that through Lyft’s existing technology, the company’s dispatch agents can monitor the progress of rides in real time. By using new data analytic tools and integrating software systems in the command center, Lyft is able to anticipate the demand for rides and arrange Lyft vehicles accordingly so patients don’t have to wait.
“The excellent results from JFK’s pilot program are a great example of how Hackensack MeridianHealth is innovatively collaborating with technology companies to break down barriers to health care,’’ said Robert Garrett, HMH’s co-CEO. He noted the importance of the partnership, citing a study from Community Transportation Association found that roughly 3.6 million Americans miss or arrive late for medical appointments each year due to inadequate transportation.
Ferracane noted that Lyft’s analytics technology was the driving force behind the company targeting the health care space.
“The story of how we noticed health care as a separate area of business for us was fairly recent,” she said. “Our systems are able to detect where cluster of rides are being requested in the same area. That is really something that we do to avoid fraud. But after an examination of that, we noticed health care companies and hospitals across the U.S. starting to use the service in bulk, so it was significant enough that we built out a team to handle health care.”
RWJBarnabas’ partnership with Uber Health is initially being implemented at Jersey City Medical Center and, in the coming months, will expand across the System. Uber Health, a part of Uber, which is said to be worth $60 billion, will complement existing transportation services at each of the RWJBH hospitals.
“We know transportation can be a barrier in accessing necessary health services and we are pleased to partner with Uber Health to help address this need,” said Barry Ostrowsky, CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, in a statement. “Our goal has always been to make health care more accessible and with Uber Health, we can reduce transportation barriers for patients traveling to primary care appointments and follow-up care visits, and provide a safe ride home after being discharged from the hospital.”
Said Jay Holley, head of partnerships at Uber Health: “3.6 million Americans miss health care appointments every year due to lack of reliable transportation. We’re excited to partner with RWJBarnabas Health in efforts to eliminate transportation as a barrier to care.”