When people don’t have access to reliable transportation, they can often miss medical appointments. When they miss medical appointments, they can miss an important diagnosis, getting a new prescription for a current condition, or learning about other treatment options for their health issue. The result? Poor health that can result in unexpected, urgent medical interventions that are complicated and costly.
That’s the reality for about 3.6 million Americans who miss medical appointments each year due to lack of transportation. They live in transportation deserts, which are areas with limited public transportation options, or they face other transportation barriers, such as mobility issues and unreliable family support for rides.
Unfortunately, this often results in emergency room visits or hospitalizations that could have been avoided. The total cost to the US healthcare system? About $150 billion annually.*
Having access to quality health care is a vital component of a person’s wellbeing, along with other conditions such as economic stability, education, food and neighborhood environments. Having access to transportation gives people access to that critically important service.
That is why Blue Shield of California has launched an innovative pilot program in Sacramento called rideQSM to address the healthcare impacts that transportation barriers or transportation deserts create for patients and the healthcare industry that serves them. We’re collaborating with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Institute and Lyft to provide non-emergency transportation – at no additional cost - for eligible members.
The pilot program is available to Sacramento area residents enrolled in Blue Shield’s HMO or PPO health plans through their employers and use the Elk Grove and Galt offices of Associated Family Physicians Inc. of Hill Physicians. They’ll be able to arrange rides for themselves to and from doctor’s appointments and lab and radiology visits. Soon, pharmacy prescription pick-up rides will be added.
This medical transportation program reflects the holistic-health focus of our Health Care Model of the Future initiative, where we support services that typically have been outside the standard resources of a health plan.
The Lyft medical transportation program is part of a nationwide collaboration it has with the BCBS Institute. Our pilot program is scheduled to run for 12 months; expansion plans will be determined after the results of the program are analyzed.
It’s clear from the multitude of studies and real-world evidence that convenient, efficient transportation to and from medical appointments is a big factor in contributing to a member’s overall health and well-being, and in helping to keep healthcare more affordable. As one America’s largest healthcare plans, Blue Shield of California can lead innovative thinking and strategies that can create healthier communities.
*American Hospital Association, November 2017 Social Determinants of Health Series