One company plans to change the way patients can access non-emergency medical transport (NEMT). Boston-based Circulation aims to increase accessibility to NEMT and cut down associated costs by partnering with Uber.
Dr. John Brownstein, co-founder of Circulation, said, “There’s huge costs that are spent on transportation, yet millions of patients are missing their appointments each year due to transportation.”
According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, NEMT spending under Medicare and Medicaid was 2.7 billion in 2013.
Brownstein cites that Uber rides can be up to 40% cheaper than more traditional forms of transportation.
“There’s also a subsequent benefit…if you reduce the no-show rate, you can prevent potentially subsequent complications and eventual admissions to the hospital.”
According to Brownstein, Circulation will be bring the convenience of on-demand to the patient population, especially to those that are low-income, disabled and elderly.
Brownstein said these patient groups are generally the ones that have the most trouble making their appointments.
The way the service works is simple. The patient makes a call to set up a ride. The coordinator would log-in to a web-based tool where he/she would be able to book and import information about the patient’s location and destination. The patient would receive a text message or voice call with information about the ride – name of the driver, make and model of the car.
“They would be able to get in the car and come to their appointment or leave their appointment without having any form of mobile application,” said Brownstein.
Based off health records, the coordinator would be able to customize the Uber specifications to meet the needs of the patient as well.
Utilizing Amazon Cloud, the service is HIPAA-compliant as well. Brownstein said the employees have extensive experience in developing research tools to maintain patient privacy, and maintain proper protocols to protect patient data.
“Our team has really been focused on the idea of how consumer technologies can play a role in healthcare…how the information we retrieve from them can benefit population health.”
The team first partnered with Uber two years ago and conducted a pilot program to deliver flu shots, leading Brownstein to become Uber’s healthcare advisor.
“We showed that we could engage people via Uber.”
“We started to think more broadly about opportunities with healthcare and Uber. And this is how Circulation was born.”
Other than costs, Brownstein stated several other issues regarding traditional NEMT, including lack of tracking, misuse of taxi vouchers, long wait times and difficulties in booking.
Brownstein added, “Actually an advantage is that we can start to think more broadly about what our global options are with this platform.”
Circulation will be piloting at Boston Children’s Hospital; Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington, Delaware; as well as Mercy Health System’s three acute-care hospitals and elderly care program in Pennsylvania. Circulation is expected to expand to six other states during this year.
Karishma B. Desai is an emerging broadcast journalist interested in covering health, international and public interest stories. Desai is currently studying her M.S. in Journalism at Boston University. She also freelances as a web producer at New England Cable News. She hopes to use her skills in journalism to shed light on issues regarding mental health and disparities in health outcomes. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, chugging coffee, reading, writing and exercising.
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