Lyft and Uber’s big tech twists on a Social Determinant of Health–medical-related transportation

Social determinants of health (SDOH), that widely-discussed concept often dismissed as the turf of social workers and small do-good companies such as Healthify, are receiving a substantial boost from two profit-oriented, on-demand transportation companies: Uber and Lyft. Several years ago, smaller companies such as Circulation and Veyo [TTA 21 Feb, 26 Apr 17] entered the non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) field with their on-demand services. These proved to be valuable links in the continuum of care–valuable in helping patients make their appointments, at generally a lower cost than Access-a-Ride or taxis, while collecting a wealth of data on usage.

Uber and Lyft’s recent announcements take the NEMT concept further with integration into discharge planning, chronic care management in practices, and EHRs while keeping it simple for patients and caregivers.

  • The launch of Uber Health, targeted to healthcare organizations (and just in time for HIMSS). The ride booking for both patients and caregivers uses a HIPAA-compliant dashboard for the health manager to book the ride, and text messaging to the patient for confirmations and pickup. Over 100 healthcare organizations are piloting the service. MedCityNews
  • Lyft Business inked a deal with Allscripts to integrate booking transportation into appointment setting. The Allscripts EHR is in 45,000 physician practices and 2,500 hospitals (which doesn’t include newly-acquired Practice Fusion’s 30,000 small ambulatory sites). Besides its own driver base, Lyft also has used its Concierge API to facilitate partnerships with NEMT brokers working with providers such as Circulation, National MedTrans (the NEMT provider for Anthem’s CareMore Health Plan HMO), and American Medical Response for drivers and more specialized vehicles. Hitch Health works with Lyft and independently integrates into Epic and Athenahealth. MedCityNews, POLITICO Morning eHealth (scroll down).

But does providing transport for appointments save money? The logic behind it is that missed appointments can exacerbate existing conditions; a direct example is dialysis, where missing an appointment could result in a hospital admission. Another area is patient avoidance of making appointments. The CareMore Health Plan study reduced waiting times and ride cost, increasing patient satisfaction–great for HEDIS and ACO quality scores, but the longer-term cost saving is still to be determined.

Another attraction for Lyft and Uber: steady revenue. In Medicare Advantage, 70 percent of members are covered and all state Medicaid programs reimburse their members for qualifying transportation.

Digital Epidemiology: on-demand public health

Guest Editor Sarianne Gruber (@subtleimpact) reviews the meta-trend of digital epidemiology, which gathers ‘digital exhaust’ information through social networks, chat rooms and other online media, analyzes it at the population level and tracks localized outbreaks of diseases like the Zika virus and flu. It even has inspired new models of vaccine delivery and patient transportation such as Uber Health and Circulation.

The Internet has a rather detailed picture of the health of the population, coming from digital sources through all of our connected devices, including smartphones. This is digital epidemiology: the idea that the health of a population can be assessed through digital traces, in real time. Digital Epidemiology: Tracking Diseases in the Mobile Age. M. Salathé, J. Brownstein et al.

As a Harvard Medical School Professor and the Boston Children’s Hospital Chief Innovation Officer, the plights of patients and the hurdles in care are Dr. John Brownstein’s starting points for questions and discovery. When the Community Transportation Association study reported “an estimated 3.6 million patients the United States miss at least one appointment due to lack of access to transportation”, Brownstein was determined to make this challenge his own. This fall, he launched the first customizable patient-centric digital transportation system – Circulation – a new vision for non-emergency medical transportation. As a Klick Health Muse attendee and having had the privilege to speak with John Brownstein, Ph.D., co-founder of Circulation, I would like to share what I learned about his journey as an epidemiologist, public health educator, and innovator.

Social Media’s Big Data: Preventing Epidemics and Tracking Drug Safety
Digital epidemiologists think in terms of “digital phenotype” to understanding the health of individuals. Uncovering critical information about what is happening at the population level is collectively called “digital exhaust”. These digital traces that are left behind, help track local outbreaks around the world. “In fact, you don’t need surveys, just mine what people are saying online. We combine social media to get real insights as to what is happening on the ground: facts and sentiment. The ability to understand risk and population health is fantastic with these emerging technologies,” opened Dr. John Brownstein at the 2016 New York City KlickMuse event.

Social media mixed with disparate sources of health data was how Brownstein began solving public health risks. (more…)