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By Sarah C. Threnhauser

Its become abundantly clear over the past few years that transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, are reshaping our workforce and economy – putting taxi services out of business; turning employees into “microentrepreneurs” (see The Gig Economy – Welcome To The World Of Microentrepreneurs); and now, potentially shaping how we purchase cars (see There is Evidence that Uber is Destroying the Demand for Cars). But the most fascinating market development we’ve seen recently are forays by Uber and Lyft into the health care market.

Social determinants of health — such as poverty, lack of education, racism, discrimination, environment, and community conditions – have been on the front burner of many of the health care strategy sessions and policy discussions I’ve been in this year. While we’ve seen many new programs and innovative projects to address food insecurity, housing, and education issues, I haven’t seen as much movement on the transportation side – though it remains a big barrier to care for many consumers. About 25% of consumers in the suburbs miss medical appointments due to the lack of transportation (see Transportation To Clinic: Findings From A Pilot Clinic-Based Survey Of Low-Income Suburbanites)

Recent market developments show that the transportation networks of Uber and Lyft are converging with the needs of the health care system to provide non-emergency transportation for consumers. On May 18, 2017, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) announced a nationwide partnership with Lyft to provide transportation to health care appointments for BCBSA members (see Blue Cross & Blue Shield Partners With Lyft For Increased Access To Health Care Transportation). In this instance BCBS affiliates in all 50 states will incorporate Lyft services for specific communities within the plan service area and rides will be scheduled via the Lyft Concierge tool.

For Lyft, this is just the latest (and largest) of such partnerships. In February, Lyft announced a 31-state partnership with LogistiCare, the nation’s largest non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) manager (see LogistiCare And Lyft Announce Nationwide Partnership); and in August of last year, Lyft announced a partnership with American Logistics Company, LLC (ALC), a national passenger transportation management company that provides health plans and government agencies with wheelchair, gurney, door-to-door, and curb-to-curb transportation services (see Lyft Partners With ALC For On-Demand Transportation).

Uber is also making moves in the health care transportation market, announcing in September of 2016 that it had partnered with Circulation, a non-emergency medical transport company, to launch pilot programs for hospitals looking to help consumers keep appointments (see Circulation Chosen as Uber’s Preferred Healthcare Platform Partner for Non-Emergency Medical Transportation; Launches Hospital Pilot Programs). This comes after Uber partnered with MedStar Health, a 10-hospital system in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. that now incorporates a “Ride with Uber” option on its website (see MedStar Collaborates with Uber to Provide a New Option for Accessing Care).

With social determinants having such a large impact on the cost of care for complex consumers, this is a situation where many health plans are looking for a solution. If you are a provider organization or hospital system, this kind of strategic move cannot remain unaddressed for long – health plans are already searching for, and in many cases demanding, innovative approaches to bring down costs and augment the effectiveness of services (see  Keys To Success With Integrated Care Models For Consumers With Complex Behavioral Disorders, Social Services Paid By Health Plans? and Medicare’s Path To Incorporating Social Determinants Into Value-Based Payment).

For more on addressing social determinants of health, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. Strategies For Addressing The Social Determinants Of Health
  2. Tending To The Social Determinants Of Health – Or Not
  3. Social Determinants Of Health & Medical Homes
  4. Population Health Management & Social Determinants – First, Define ‘Community’
  5. Are Health Plans The Future Of Social Service Funding?

For more, on how health plans are demanding innovation from their provider networks, join me at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute on August 17 for a keynote address from Peggy DeCarlis, MSSA, LCSW-C, Senior VP, Chief Operating & Innovation Officer, New Directions Behavioral Health. In her keynote, Redesigning Behavioral Health For The Future: The New Directions Approach To Building A Better Care Delivery System, Ms. DeCarlis will discuss the innovations that are a “top priority” at New Directions and how these new models will change their relationships with provider organizations.

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