Uber has already partnered with systems such as Medstar Health to get patients to their appointments, but the transportation giant’s newest pilot program has shown promises of making an even bigger splash.
The program involves a patient-centered portal that’s integrated with patient health records, allowing hospital transport coordinators to schedule and manage on-demand rides from one centralized location. Mercy Health System’s three acute care hospitals and their PACE, all-inclusive care program for the elderly in Pennsylvania are part of the initial pilot program. And the Philadelphia-area system already sees this as an opportunity to provide more individualized care, while driving down costs.
“The key is to be able to define what an individual persons needs … and make it as easy as possible to be able to be engaged in their health care and well-being,” says Gary Zimmer, senior vice president of Mercy and CEO of the system’s Clinically Integrated Network division.
“We really think we’ll be able to provide a level of convenience that wasn’t there before, along with cost savings for our health system,” he adds.
The portal, designed by the health care transportation company Circulation, integrates patient information into the transportation dashboard to view individual details; for instance, whether the patient needs a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, or other accommodations.
Everything is HIPAA-compliant and patients don’t need a new app or device with the option to receive ride update alerts through email, phone or text. Transport coordinators can arrange for individualized rides through one dashboard (pictured right), instead of having to use many different methods and trying to keep track of taxi vouchers.
“We’re excited to bring the ease of transportation that consumers have experienced into health care,” says John Brownstein, co-founder of Circulation and a professor at Harvard Medical School. After a coordinator knows a patient is on the way, he or she can start the check-in process, minimize wait times and, ultimately, create a better experience for everyone involved, he adds.
Transportation is a well-documented thorn in the side of many health systems. Having the transparency to know when rides become available is a problem many face. And the missed appointments associated with transportation issues not only drive up costs, but may lead to complications down the line for patients and, ultimately, more visits.
Brownstein envisions even further customization in the future, as six more states are set to pilot the platform. And Zimmer believes that down the line, Mercy may be able to incorporate pharmacy trips and prescription delivery into the platform.
In addition to Mercy’s hospitals, the program is also piloting at Boston Children’s Hospital and Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington, Del.