April 11, 2019

Is Airbnb the next tech giant to target health care?

Daily Briefing

    Airbnb last month announced that it is teaming up with two cancer organizations to expand a program that allows patients traveling far distances for critical medical care to stay in an Airbnb at no cost.

    About Airbnb's medical stay program

    Airbnb's Open Homes for Medical Stays program, which the company launched in September 2018, allows Airbnb hosts to open their homes free-of-charge to certain patients who are traveling long distances to receive necessary medical treatment.

    To be eligible for the program, patients must travel at least 100 miles for critical medical care, such as clinical trials or scans, according to WebMD. A nurse, medical social worker, or oncologist also must verify the need for the treatment. Further, patients must meet Airbnb's economic guidelines to be eligible for the program. For example, a two-person household has to have an annual gross income of $49,380 or lower to qualify for the program.

    Joe Gebbia, co-founder and chief product officer of Airbnb, said the company launched the program to waive the "cost of temporary accommodations" for some patients, which can be "a major barrier to receiving treatment for critical illnesses."

    About 2,000 patients have booked no-cost housing through the program so far, according to Airbnb, and the company's goal is to provide temporary housing to 100,000 people by 2022.

    Airbnb announces new partnerships for Medical Stays program

    Airbnb last month announced that it has partnered with the Bone Marrow & Cancer Foundation in New York City and the Cancer Support Community in the District of Columbia to expand access to its medical stays program. Both organizations, which are dedicated to offering resources and support services for critically ill cancer patients, will be able to help patients access Airbnb housing through the program.

    Airbnb also said it is giving both groups more than $1.2 million in grants to cover the cost of housing for patients in instances when Airbnb housing is unavailable.

    Kim Thiboldeaux, CEO of the Cancer Support Community, said the grant and partnership with Airbnb is "a game-changer for … patients and caregivers" who have to travel long distances for life-saving treatment. She said, "[Y]ou can hear the relief and gratitude in their voices as they learn about the free housing."

    The 'sharing economy' breaks into health care

    Airbnb's latest step into health care follows similar moves by other sharing companies seeking to use  their services to make health care more accessible for patients.

    For example, Lyft already has secured partnerships with nine health care systems, including high-profile affiliations with 141-hospital system Ascension and Denver Health, to help patients get to their health appointments on time.

    In addition, Uber last year launched Uber Health, a platform that health care providers can use to book rides to bring their patients home from a doctor's office or hospital, as well as to bring patients from their homes to providers (Airbnb release, 3/26; Bean, Becker's Hospital Review, 4/9; Nelson, WebMD, 4/8).

    Learn more: How can your organization address transportation barriers?

    To learn more about what your hospital or health system can do to address transportation barriers, view our blog posts, "Four lessons on reducing no-show rates with hospital-provided transportation" and "Four ways hospitals can provide transportation assistance to drive access improvements."

    Then, learn more about four steps for focusing on the highest return community health needs with our Toolkit for Prioritizing Community Health Interventions.

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