- Lyft is launching a new non-emergency medical transportation product allowing patients to request their own rides to and from medical appointments.
- Allowing patients to schedule their own rides is one of the most frequent requests the ride-hailing giant gets from its healthcare partners, Lyft said in a release Thursday. Previously, the sponsoring organization — whether a hospital or social services agency — would have to schedule the ride for the patient.
- Lyft says the offering, called Lyft Pass for Healthcare, is the first product of its kind from a ride-hailing company.
Healthcare companies partner with NEMT players to reduce patient no-shows, shifting the reliance on emergency services to upstream preventive primary care, especially for vulnerable low-income populations. The downstream costs of missed medical visits in the U.S. are estimated at roughly $150 billion annually, and 3.6 million people miss appointments due to lack of transportation each year, according to multiple studies.
Lyft launched its NEMT business in 2016, allowing payers, providers and other healthcare organizations to request transportation for patients. But now, patients themselves can initiate rides to and from medical appointments or other destinations, like a pharmacy, via the Lyft app nationwide, a new capability the San Francisco-based company developed in response to client demand, Lyft said.
The sponsoring organization still pays for the cost of the ride, and remains in control of things like budget, location and compliance, but allowing patients to initiative the ride frees things up on the administrative side, according to Megan Callahan, vice president of Lyft Healthcare.
Here's how it works:
The sponsoring organization — a hospital, for example — determines the budget for their transportation program, the maximum cost of each ride, approved pick-up and drop-off locations and when a patient is allowed to use their ride passes. The hospital then shares the pass with the patient via phone number, code or hyperlink.
The patient is then notified in their Lyft app that they've received a ride pass, and get details about when and how it can be used. When it's time, the patient enters the ride location and time and applies the pass to their ride.
Ride-hailing giants see the multibillion NEMT market as fertile ground for growth, especially after months of flagging revenue as the coronavirus pandemic keeps potential riders, especially high-risk patients, indoors. It's traditionally a Medicaid benefit, but more flexible regulations on coverage enacted during the Trump administration also spurred interest in NEMT from employers and commercial plans.
Generally, payers and providers contract with traditional transportation brokers, which offer a range of vehicles and services based on a patient's specific needs, for NEMT. However, Uber and Lyft tout their massive footprints and driver networks, along with strong brand awareness, as pluses for potential clients, though traditional brokers argue the companies aren't as able to meet the niche requirements of some patients, such as wheelchair-accessible vans.
Despite that, the volume and type of clients for Uber and Lyft have grown significantly since both divisions started.
Lyft doesn't disclose its client list, but says it partners with nine of the 10 largest U.S. health systems, nine of the 10 biggest NEMT brokers and the 10 biggest payers.
Lyft, which already integrated its NEMT platform with Allscripts, announced in October it was also integrating with EHR behemoth Epic, roughly a year after Uber announced similar plans to integrate with Epic rival Cerner. Such integrations allow hospital administration to schedule rides without accessing a separate tool outside their record, streamlining the process.
Uber, which launched its own NEMT business in 2018, says it has more than 1,500 partners in the healthcare space. Along with its NEMT division, Uber is angling to get a bigger slice of the healthcare supply chain, announcing in March a deal with e-prescription startup ScriptDrop expanding its prescription delivery footprint from a few cities to dozens of U.S. states.
ScriptDrop also briefly linked up with Lyft to offer medication delivery in 2019.