Riding the bus is affordable and handy for those who don’t have other transportation to get around. Patience is something you learn after years dealing with public transportation. What happens when something urgent comes up and you can’t wait an hour for a bus to get you to a medical appointment immediately? What if the weather is not agreeable to sitting outside, hot or cold?
When transportation becomes a hassle, patients may miss appointments, with untreated symptoms leading to worsening health. A 2013 study found that up to half of patients reported poor or unavailable transportation as a barrier to medical care. Bus riders were twice as likely to skip appointments compared to car users.
Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are the new technology making trips to the doctor easier. Some companies are partnering with hospitals to provide patients access to convenient rides. MedStar Health system in Maryland started a partnership with Uber in January. Patients can set up rides through the hospital’s website, as well as get appointment reminders. Those who don’t have access to the Uber app can arrange a ride by calling the hospital’s patient advocates. National MedTrans Network, which provides non-emergency rides for patients in several states, partnered with Lyft last year in New York, California, and Nevada. Hackensack UMC in New Jersey and Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida have also partnered with Uber in the last year. San Diego startup Veyo offers similar technology for health care appointments in Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, and California.
Health centers have volunteer drivers to transport patients, but these rides require advanced planning and are not good for forgetful patients or last minute appointments. National MedTrans Network started partnering with Lyft after an elderly woman was left out in freezing New York weather for over a half hour waiting for a scheduled ride which never showed up.
Most rides are covered by insurance. Medicaid patients are totally covered for non-emergency transportation needs, while Medicare Advantage plans may offer some transportation benefits (not traditional Medicare).
The only downside to the ride-hailing services is finding wheelchair accessible vehicles and the lack of drivers in rural areas.
Tan, Zhai Yun. “Medical Providers Try Uber, Lyft For Patients With Few Transportation Options.” News. Kaiser Health News, 17 Aug 2016. Web. 18 Aug 2016.