CommonSpirit leans on Lyft, LogistiCare for rideshare pilot

The health system has seen double-digit savings so far and its leaders are also hoping to figure out new ways to incorporate ridesharing.

Like many health systems that experiment with ride-sharing services, CommonSpirit Health is starting with rides home from the hospital for patients who cannot afford their own.

The Chicago-based Catholic health system started testing a service last summer at some of its hospitals in Arizona and California under a partnership with Lyft and LogistiCare Circulation. CommonSpirit Health formed in February 2019 following the merger of two predecessor health systems, Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. The system, which operates 142 hospitals and more than 700 care sites in 21 states, plans to roll out the ridesharing program at all its locations.

So far, the partnership has delivered savings of 35% to 60% over the system’s old method, which generally meant handing out bus tickets or vouchers for taxi rides, said Christine Brocato, CommonSpirit’s vice president of strategic innovation, in a phone interview.

But it’s not just savings that matter to CommonSpirit. LogistiCare’s ride-ordering platform offers better tracking, Brocato said. “You give someone a taxi voucher, you don’t know where and when they were dropped off. You get the bill and you are not sure if the actual service was delivered as billed. So, for us, this was important for a lot of reasons.”

The push to streamline and improve non-emergency medical transportation has spawned multiple companies that aim to help providers coordinate transportation for patients. Providers see a lack of transportation as a major hurdle to health care, especially among elderly and low-income patients and in rural areas.

LogistiCare, a subsidiary of The Providence Service Corp., is among the largest providers. But there also are several startups, including Ride Health, which raised $6.2 million in seed funding earlier this year, and Roundtrip, which raised $5.1 million in Series A funding last year.

Uber and Lyft also have been tackling the challenge. Lyft, for example, has partnered with several health systems that are looking to reduce appointment no-shows or save money on post-ambulatory transportation. One in northern California — Alameda Health System —is saving $400,000 a year with Lyft compared to what it spent on taxi vouchers, Megan Callahan, vice president of healthcare for the Oakland-based ride-hailing service, said in a phone interview.

Lyft’s partnership with CommonSpirit, however, also includes a task force charged with coming up with new ways to use ridesharing services, Callahan said. “I think from that, we’re going to get a whole variety of insights.”

Potential ideas include shuttling patients between care settings, as well as helping health-system staff get to work or to in-home visits with patients, Callahan said.

For now, CommonSpirit is happy to have a more predictable way to order and keep track of rides for discharged patients who want to use Lyft. The health system covers the cost for patients who do not have access to transportation and cannot pay for their own.

Patients often face long waits for taxis, while clinical staff spends a lot of time coordinating rides, Brocato said. “That is a daily problem, not a weekly problem. That is a significant issue to plan for on our hospital floors.”

So far, CommonSpirit has arranged about 450 rides for patients through Lyft and LogistiCare, Brocato said. Taxi and bus rides are still available.

The savings so far have exceeded Brocato’s expectations. But equally important is the improved record-keeping.

“If you are the hospital CFO, you are now able to really understand where the costs are arising from and they are, in fact … accurate,” Brocato said. The hospital’s earlier records of spending on patient transportation are probably “somewhat inaccurate,” she acknowledged, so it is hard to gauge exact savings.

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