Sutter Health to offer patients, staffers individualized transportation options through Lyft 

Sutter Health and Lyft are teaming up to allow the health system’s facilities to roll out individualized transportation services for both patients and staff members. 

The partnership would offer, for example, a rural clinic the option to assist patients with rides to and from appointments or cover transport to and from public transit to help workers avoid parking fees in urban areas, the two companies announced Monday.

The individualized approach allows for a variety of point solutions that can meet very specific needs of a specific region, Megan Callahan, vice president of healthcare at Lyft, told FierceHealthcare. 

“It puts the power in the hands of those Sutter teams to define what transportation programs are necessary,” Callahan said. 

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Both Lyft and its main competitor Uber have made a strong push into the healthcare space, bolstered by data that suggest patients are already using these platforms regularly to get to doctors' appointments and other nonemergency care.

Amid talk in the industry of addressing the social determinants of care, ride-sharing platforms offer an opportunity to tackle transportation—a key one. Research shows that access to ride-shares can reduce wait times for care and reduce costs by improving access. 

Another potential option Sutter will offer is using Lyft to transport home health workers to patient visits. Callahan said this could allow clinicians a more efficient use of their time as they could prepare for visits or debrief during the drive. 

“We really viewed that as Lyft helping them maximize their clinician resources,” Callahan said. 

Sutter, a sprawling California health system that runs 24 hospitals and other facilities across 20 counties, was one of the first providers to see the potential in how Lyft could benefit healthcare and has piloted its services in a number of ways over the past several years, Callahan said. 

For example, patients in the emergency department at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center Pacific campus in San Francisco were offered a ride via Lyft to a location of their choice. In the span of three months, offering Lyft rides reduced wait times from 23 minutes to three minutes, according to the announcement.

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In addition, the pilot saved the hospital 25% on its transportation costs compared to its previous solutions, such as taxi vouchers. 

“We worked with their staff and really helped train them,” Callahan said. “They actually had a lot of good input in how we should do our product development in that particular setting.” 

In another pilot at Sutter’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation, staff members were able to move more efficiently between care centers, Lyft said. 

Callahan said that Sutter isn’t the only provider that’s interested in how the ride-share platform’s services could be used to benefit employees and improve workflows. She said that the successes with Sutter could demonstrate use cases for Lyft’s platforms health systems may not have considered—and offer a road map if they want to test something themselves.