For patients who may not have access to a car or public transit and need to travel to scheduled medical appointments, reliable and affordable transportation is a necessity. However, providing consistent nonemergency medical transportation is a challenge facing many hospitals and healthcare systems, as options may be scarce and allocating existing resources may not be feasible. To alleviate this problem, an emerging solution is using ride-sharing services such as Lyft or Uber to schedule rides for hospital visits.
Last month, HBI looked at the reasons why ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft are a great option for nonemergency medical transportation (click here for more info). For additional insight, HBI looked into the experience of Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, which is part of the Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington, Delaware. The hospital uses Circulation, a computer application for scheduling transportation for patients and their families with ride-sharing services. To learn more, HBI spoke with social work director Jodie Puzio-Bungard.
“Circulation has really opened up some opportunities for transportation for families at the hospital,” Puzio-Bungard said. “Patient transportation can be a challenge because sometimes people need rides in the moment, but Circulation allows us to schedule rides whenever needed.”
How It Works
Nemours duPont Hospital for Children arranges 60–100 trips per month through Circulation. The staff members who utilize Circulation and arrange rides for the patients, as well as the patients’ parents or caregivers, are the organization’s social workers. The Circulation platform is HIPAA-compliant, and hospital social work staff can log in to request transportation for patients via the ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft.
As it appears on a social worker’s computer, the Circulation interface is similar to that of the phone application for Uber or Lyft, which includes information on who will be driving the patient, the current location of the driver’s vehicle, estimated time of arrival, and what vehicle the driver has. Families waiting can then receive text messages on their cell phones that include updates on when their ride will arrive. In addition, Circulation can record information about the patient or the patient’s caregiver, such as their address, which allows rides to be established quickly because this information does not need to be entered multiple times.
Staff are also able to access a variety of analytics through Circulation, including month-to-month usage of the platform, a heat map showing where rides are taking place, number of rides, and the average distance and cost of each ride. At this time, the organization covers the cost of Circulation rides from its social work budget.
Circulation can be used to get patients and patients’ families or caregivers to scheduled inpatient or outpatient appointments and get them home after a visit or inpatient stay. It can also be used for pharmacy visits, so a patient’s parent or guardian can pick up the child’s medication, and then return to the hospital for discharge.
The Impact on Families
For the organization’s social workers, the platform allows for a reliable and fast way to schedule nonemergency transportation. Unlike taxi vouchers or other means of travel, the vast number and availability of drivers from Uber and Lyft means rides can be scheduled as soon as a patient is in need, and a driver can be found almost immediately.
Circulation has also proven to offer significant cost savings compared to other forms of nonemergency medical transportation previously utilized by Nemours duPont Hospital for Children. For example, a one-way trip that is 45 minutes long and covers 26 miles costs approximately $80 by taxi, even after a $20 discount through a voucher. The same trip through Circulation costs on average $54.
This is just one example of how a forward-thinking organization is supporting patients and their families at a time when consumerism is increasing in the healthcare industry. HBI will continue to report on the tactics providers are using to maintain their financial health while building loyalty with patients.
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