New transportation help for patients

    A Lyft driver (Josh Edelson/AP Images for Lyft)

    A Lyft driver (Josh Edelson/AP Images for Lyft)

    Two new transportation services are coming to the Delaware Valley, and both providers say their service will reduce the delays and headaches that can make it hard for patients to go to routine medical appointments.

    A national partnership between the ride-booking company Lyft and the technology company CareLinx was designed for older adults.

    In Wilmington, Delaware, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children is teaming up with the Philadelphia startup Ride Roundtrip to give young patients a ride.

    “So much of medical transportation involves the movement of people that can’t walk, that can’t get out of bed, and our model taps into medical transportation companies that are able to provide those services,” said Roundtrip CEO Mark Switaj.

    He says the idea is to give “on-demand” transportation to the families of children who use a wheelchair or need a stretcher for transport.

    Ed Woomer from duPont Hospital for Children says when a medically complex kid has a day of appointments, a care coordinator has to call two or three days in advance to book a ride. That’s all fine, he says, if there are no unexpected delays.

    “That transportation person comes back at 11:30, someone says: ‘The patient’s not ready.’ And they say: ‘Oh well, I can’t wait for them, I have to go and do additional runs.’ And we say: ‘Well, when will you be back?’ And they say: ‘Well, we don’t really know. Call us later.’ And that happens everyday,” said Woomer, the administrator for patient and family services at duPont Hospital.

    A 2005 survey estimated that 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical care each year because of transportation problems.

    Switaj says Rountrip designed a web portal and mobile app platform that adjusts if a patient needs to stay a little longer for an MRI or some other medical test.

    “So that patient’s ready for a transport home — after that MRI experience — [the] care manager logs-in, books the request, we send the request to the most appropriate and closest vehicle available for the transport home. In many cases we can cut a wait time down from four hours down to minutes,” Switaj said.

    That’s the plan, anyway.

    Switaj’s team is brokering relationships with existing state-approved transportation companies that will install a Roundtrip communication device in their fleet of wheelchair vans and private ambulances.

    The hospital will first offer the service to patients in the Medicaid program. The Medicaid benefit includes payments for non-emergency medical transportation.

    Nemours recently analyzed the public transportation options near one of its primary care services and learned that the bus discharges riders blocks and blocks away from the clinic’s front door. Woomer said that’s inconvenient if you have little children — even if they are healthy.

    “It’s raining and it’s cold and you have to walk a half mile from the bus stop to the primary care office, that’s a barrier, right?” Woomer said.

    For seniors

    Ride-hailing service Lyft’s partnership is with CareLinx, an online marketplace where customers can shop for a home health aide.

    “Oprah Magazine called us kind of like the Match.com of caregiving,” said founder Sherwin Sheik.

    “We actually match client and patient specific needs on multiple dimensions of compatibility: language preferences, cultural background, personality characteristics,” Sheik said.

    “You can see easily when the caregiver arrives, all the activities they did that day — bathing, grooming, meal prep. They can take pictures of the meals. Families can review them, track weight and vitals,” he said.

    The CareLinx/Lyft partnership called CareRides lets older adults book transportation and hire a professional caregiver who can join them for grocery shopping or a doctor appointment.

    But Dan Trigub from Lyft says your 95-year-old mother doesn’t need to be computer savvy to get a ride.

    “Family members living long distance can now order a ride — or authorize an existing caregiver — to pick up at their mom or dad’s house and then set the destination of drop off,” CareLinx founder Sherwin Sheik said.

    “A lot of the data shows that 30 to 35 percent of our elder population does not have a smartphone or know how to use all the features of a smartphone,” Trigub said.

    Ride-hailing companies mostly do curb-to-curb service. After that, you’re on your own. But Trigub said CareRides makes sure that frail, older people at least have help getting in and out of the car.

    The Lyft ride costs about the same as usual. Hiring the caregiver can cost another $15 or more per hour,” Sheik said.

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