As more hospitals sign carpool deals with Lyft and Uber, other executives are undoubtedly watching the pioneers to see if offering free services to the high number of low-income patients missing their medical appointments due to unreliable transportation provide a return on investment. .
But a new study by researchers at Penn Medicine published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that offering a free Lyft ride to Medicaid patients to an upcoming medical appointment did not, in fact, reduce the rate of missed appointments. At least that is not the case so far.
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The study, which included nearly 800 West Philadelphians who were Medicaid patients at one of Penn Medicine’s two primary care practices, found that the rate of missed appointments for those who offered a ride free with Lyft and those that didn’t was pretty much the same: 36.5% and 36.7%, respectively.
The results suggest that carpooling – a relatively simple and inexpensive approach to overcoming transportation barriers – may not be the easy solution some believe.
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While this is a negative result, the authors added that it may help inform future efforts to improve attendance rates and remove some of the social barriers that persist when it comes to treating children. poorest patients.
Each year, about 3.6 million people – many of them on low incomes – miss their medical appointments due to transportation issues. For this reason, they often move their care to more expensive acute care facilities out of preference and convenience. In addition, missed appointments have a negative effect on clinical productivity, and unused clinical space and staff time equate to lost revenue.
Non-urgent medical transportation, or NEMT, is a Medicaid benefit designed to reduce barriers to transportation. Yet despite its availability, many patients still end up missing their appointments.
The design of NEMT may contribute to the problems, the authors found. This requires advanced planning, often days in advance, and the wait times for pickup can be long. NEMT, which typically hires taxis, also lacks the technology to track drivers to ensure they pick up patients in a timely manner and get them to the right place.
More clinical trials examining the effect of interventions designed to overcome transport barriers are needed, the authors said, as well as general studies examining interventions that address several social determinants that may have an additive effect.