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2018-04-27 / News

Geisinger announces free patient transportation designed to reduce “no shows”

BY R. BROCK PRONKO
Regional Business Analyst


Non-emergency patient transportation is trending. In March, Uber announced the launch of Uber Health to allow health care providers to schedule rides for patients. Non-emergency patient transportation is trending. In March, Uber announced the launch of Uber Health to allow health care providers to schedule rides for patients. Last year, 140,000 Geisinger patients in central Pennsylvania and 60,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania failed to show up for their scheduled appointments at Geisinger Health System facilities. Many Geisinger patients live in rural areas, which can make access to public transit challenging, particularly during harsh weather.

While numerous other factors can influence why patients don’t show up for appointments, according to the National Institutes of Health, about 25 percent of “no-shows” can be attributed to lack of transportation. Each year, 3.6 million Americans miss their appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation.

To help patients get to their appointments on time and to make it easier for rural patients to see their doctors, Geisinger is initiating a free- of-charge, non-emergency patient transportation program.

Geisinger Health System is partnering with Rabbittransit, a regional transportation company that operates in 10 counties in central and southcentral Pennsylvania: Adams, Columbia, Cumberland, Franklin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder, Union and York. Through its partnerships, Rabbittransit can arrange patient transport in additional counties in Geisinger’s coverage area including Luzerne, Lycoming, Schuylkill and Lackawanna.

The pilot program will be conducted in two locations: the Scranton area, within 25 miles, to test an urban setting, and the Danville area, within 50 miles, to test a rural setting.

Transportation barriers are common across the general population, but they are particularly troublesome for vulnerable populations, including patients with chronic disease.

“Having access to care for condition management and timely treatment is very important and can directly impact the health of our patients,” said Allison Hess, associate vice president of health and wellness.

“In addition to impacting quality of life and health outcomes, regular care for those with complex conditions could also potentially decrease ER visits and risk for readmissions and admissions to the hospital.”

Non-emergency patient transportation is trending. In March, Uber announced the launch of Uber Health to allow health care providers to schedule rides for patients. Uber’s competitor, Lyft, has formed partnerships over the past few years with hospitals, health insurers and medical transport services to help patients get to and from medical facilities in non-emergency situations. Rabbittransit has relationships with Uber Health and Lyft, so they can be utilized by Geisinger patients.

Although there is no cost, patients must meet the ride criteria to receive transportation, so Geisinger can collect the appropriate data to measure success.

“We’re conducting these pilot projects to study the impact that transportation has on a patient’s health now that this obstacle has been removed,” said Lisa Baumann, director of community benefit and partnerships.

Despite the availability of patient non-emergency transportation, it remains unclear if it’s the singular solution to “no shows.” A study of nearly 800 Medicaid patients in West Philadelphia found that offering free Lyft rides for patients to and from primary care appointments did not decrease the number of missed appointments compared to a group of patients who were not offered the service. That study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, questioned if only expanding the availability of transportation services will solve the problem of missed appointments.

Why does Geisinger think that its program will fare better?

“We’re implementing these pilot programs to study our own experience in providing transportation and the impact on the health outcomes of our patients,” said Baumann. “We’re planning to study an urban and rural area to better understand if there is an impact based on geography.

“After the pilot is completed, we will evaluate the outcomes and determine what long-term solutions might be viable options.” .

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