California health system weighs impact of ride ordering

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It doesn’t hurt to offer rides to patients who need them, especially as health systems tackle the lack of transportation and other social factors that undermine a person’s health. But do the rides help to reduce no-shows and, more importantly, improve health?

Contra Costa Health Services in Martinez, California, is hoping to find out. Since last spring, the public health system has been tracking rides using technology born of a partnership between ride-ordering platform Roundtrip and software developer Redox. The two companies recently teamed up to integrate Roundtrip’s ride-ordering process into the health system’s electronic health record.

The idea is to figure out the best ways to get patients where they need to go, Mark Switaj, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based Roundtrip, said in a phone interview. “It’s not as simple as throwing rides at someone.”

Roundtrip, founded in 2016, is one of several companies pitching tools to better coordinate rides for patients. Others include Ride Health and LogistiCare, a subsidiary of The Providence Service Corp. Lyft and Uber also have gotten into the game.

The companies promise to embed the ride-ordering process into clinical workflows, save health systems money and collect more data to show whether access to transportation makes a difference. Last fall, for example, Uber said its app had been integrated into Cerner electronic health record.

The chance to gather data is part of what inspired the partnership between Roundtrip and Wisconsin-based Redox, whose software is designed to ease the sharing of clinical information, Switaj said. That information could someday help predict who will need rides, he added. More immediate goals are to track health outcomes and determine insurance coverage for transportation.

Contra Costa Health Services, a county-based health system in Northern California, is among the first to use the partnership’s combined services. A pilot program began in April and was expanded to the system’s 120 case managers in June, Emily Parmenter, a program manager at Contra Costa, said in a phone interview.

Parmenter oversees a Medicaid waiver pilot program called Whole Person Care. It aims to coordinate services over a one-year period for a rotating group of 12,500 patients who are high-frequency users of high-cost health and behavioral services.

The program’s case managers often arrange rides so patients can address social needs, such as getting driver’s licenses and applying for food assistance. Case managers are beginning to add rides for health services, including doctor’s appointments and physical therapy sessions. The rides are generally covered by Medicaid.

It’s too early for definitive results, Parmenter said. But, she added, with ride ordering integrated into Contra Costa’s Epic EHRs, the system is operating more efficiently and saving money – about 25%.

“We were kind of burning through taxi and bus vouchers, which were time-consuming and interrupted the workflow,” said Parmenter.

The system also is collecting information on patients. Parmenter hopes it will offer a look at the impact of reliable transportation.

“It’s actually seeing the data,” she said. “Where are patients going and what are the barriers to them getting there? And are we able to send out a ride and will that ultimately have an impact on no-show rates or on stable employment or improved health?”

Photo: RyanJLane, Getty Images



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