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4 ways hospitals can provide transportation assistance to drive access improvements

March 13, 2017

    For population health services to be effective, patients must be able to access the care offered—which can be a particular challenge for low-income or rural patients.

    Innovative organizations recognize this significant roadblock to care and have started developing low-cost, accessible transportation services for patients.

    From our conversations with health systems, there are four main methods commonly used to reduce transportation barriers, listed below in order of resource intensity.

    1. Providing information on local transit assistance

    Health systems often utilize non-traditional personnel such as non-clinical resource specialists to help patients overcome challenges to physically accessing care. These staff members can outline transportation options (e.g. local bus schedules) or connect patients with non-profit organizations and existing resources that provide transportation assistance.

    2. Facilitating stress-free ride share services

    Other organizations are increasingly partnering with popular ride share services like Uber and Lyft to help get patients to appointments. MedStar Health, for example, enables patients to schedule rides through Uber when booking medical appointments. While the service is currently self-pay, MedStar is working to obtain Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement.

    Similarly, National Medtrans Network recently started integrating Lyft cars into their existing transportation services. These cars serve one tenth of National Medtrans' transportation program users.

    CareMore also piloted a Lyft partnership program and found that, compared with traditional non-emergency medical transportation, patient wait times for pickups decreased by 30%, costs decreased by 32%, and patient satisfaction peaked at 81%.

    3. Providing financial assistance for transportation

    Deaconess Health System's Helping Hand program offers transportation for non-emergency visits. The service includes transport to and from Deaconess' facilities for patients within a 30-mile radius, priced at only $8 each way. (CMS provides official guidelines for non-emergency medical transit, including patient qualifications, types of transportation, and fraud prevention techniques.)

    Many states also offer government-sponsored transportation vouchers for Medicaid patients to offset the financial burden of accessing care. Benefits offered vary by state and may be limited by visit type, distance, or transportation method.

    4. Bringing medical care into the community

    The Scott County Health Care Collaborative leverages community paramedics to enhance access to primary care services using a mobile clinic, particularly in rural areas and for the uninsured or underinsured. Services offered include wellness check-ups, medication reconciliation, and identification of PCMH's for patients.

    Regardless of method, transportation services can improve access to care and medications, thus improving adherence and long-term health outcomes.

    Curious how organizations are addressing other social determinants of health? Check out tactics for securing stable housing and reducing food insecurity in local communities. Members interested in other effective types of community partnerships can contact us with questions at sullivada@advisory.com

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