Blue Shield of California pilots transportation program for healthcare 'model of the future'

Blue Shield of California is piloting a new transportation program. (Adonis Villanueva/Shutterstock)

Blue Shield of California is piloting transportation benefits with some of its members in Sacramento as part of a broader initiative aimed at building a healthcare “model of the future.” 

Rolling out rideQ, a transportation platform developed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute, in Sacramento is the latest step in a multipronged project that also includes growing access to telehealth and expanding value-based care models.

The rideQ platform is also being piloted by Blues plans in other cities including Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Chicago.

The 1,000 members enrolled in the pilot will be able to book transportation to their doctors' offices and other healthcare locations at no charge, with rides provided by Lyft. The pilot is in partnership with California-based Hill Physicians, a large physician group. 

Eligible destinations include primary care visits and radiology or lab work at Hill Physicians’ offices in Elk Grove or Galt in Sacramento County. Blue Shield is looking to code for visits to pharmacies in the near future. 

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The “model of the future” project is a “comprehensive package” of services aimed at improving patient outcomes and supporting physicians as they move toward more value-based care. In addition to being enrolled in a primary care model aimed at boosting the face-to-face time they have with their doctors, members have access to health advocates who can connect them with community services. 

It also includes a shared decision-making tool aimed at better including patients in their care, said Peter Long, senior vice president of healthcare and community health transformation at Blue Shield, in an interview with FierceHealthcare. 

The variety of supports already built into the model make transportation benefits a good fit, Long said. 

“We’ve learned, I think, from other experience that we didn’t do enough stuff,” Long said. “We didn’t push hard enough, and we didn’t come at it from enough directions.” 

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But the broader initiative and the transportation benefit are designed to gather as much evidence as possible on what’s working and what’s not with the goal of building scale. Long said Blue Shield deliberately designed the pilots in a way that would allow them to be expanded easily should they prove beneficial to members. 

He noted that there’s decidedly limited evidence to back up the effectiveness of programs targeting the social determinants of health. And without that base of data, it’s impossible to design programs that work. 

In addition, the transportation pilot isn’t designed to be hyperspecific to Sacramento members, leaving plenty of room to grow. 

“If you learn deeply in one place, that has a pretty good chance of being scalable,” Long said. “We didn’t create some snowflake or a totally customized approach that we couldn’t use anywhere else.”