Executive Spotlight—How Lyft convinced Megan Callahan to jump into the transportation business

As Change Healthcare's chief strategy officer, Megan Callahan's work stretched across a wide portfolio in healthcare—a broad focus that only allowed her to "go five miles wide and an inch deep" on industry issues.

That's what attracted her to Lyft: the ability to really drill down into a key challenge in the industry, specifically in this case, how transportation can impact access to care.

"I was really kind of hankering to dig in with a specific product or a specific issue," Callahan told FierceHealthcare. "I also wanted to work on the healthcare access side of the equation, and you can’t get any more tangible access—I know we use that word pretty broadly sometimes—than actually getting people to medical care."

RELATED: Patient transport—Using Uber, Lyft reduces wait times, boosts care access, saves money

Callahan was hired in November 2018 to oversee Lyft's healthcare work. As vice president for healthcare at the rideshare company, Callahan is involved in every piece of the company's healthcare expansion, including regulatory oversight, product design and development, partnerships and growth strategy.

"I think about where we are as an industry, probably in the past 20 to 30 years in healthcare has really been focused on chronic care," she said, "and as we’ve matured I think we’re really starting to transition to how to manage the whole person."

Here's more from our conversation:

More about Megan Callahan

Family information: Husband; two daughters, ages 9 and 11; 14 nieces and nephews 

Most important part of morning routine: Early morning snuggles with my daughters.

Three words to describe my management style: Collaborative, team-building, focused

Book she recommends: “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover 

Pet peeve: Lack of planning

Favorite thing to do on a day off: Anything with my girls. Recently we’ve been mountain biking a lot.

FierceHealthcare: Why does Lyft see healthcare as a space it really wants to be involved in?

Megan Callahan: Lyft’s mission is to provide people with the world’s best transportation, and I think for us, in the healthcare sector that really resonates around getting patients everywhere their care takes them. I think Lyft saw that very, very early on. They’ve been in the healthcare space for about three years. I don’t know if that’s completely appreciated by people. 

FH: Lyft is aiming to target both Medicare Advantage and Medicaid patients—two complicated populations. Why?

MC: Every day, you and I interact with tech and with things like Lyft or Alexa or Siri, and healthcare just has a very separate patient experience. We feel that we can improve that for these Medicaid patients and create a really humanizing experience for them, one that is efficient and cost-effective and allows them to access care in a timely manner. 

RELATED: Why Lyft is making Medicare Advantage a key focus of its healthcare work

For Medicare, it’s not dissimilar—the elderly is another very vulnerable population. The elderly can be very socially isolated and can have trouble getting places. There’s a high correlation between social isolation and chronic disease, and Medicare Advantage has clearly recognized that over the past year. 

FH: Healthcare is certainly slow to change, however. When you’re making the case for your service to a provider or insurer, how do you frame it? 

MC: We’ve really gone out and partnered with the top 10 transportation brokers and those transportation brokers are the ones that have the actual relationship with the payment entity, whether that’s a health plan or whether that’s a state. What Lyft has done by going to these aggregators, if you will, is being able to access this market in a very material and, I think, scaled way. 

When we go out and talk to payers, they talk about transportation as being one of their number one—if not the number one—customer service issues. It’s what lights up their call centers, it’s what makes them spend obviously operational cost on resolving those transportation issues. And it has a huge impact on their brand because for a lot of their members that’s almost the front door to the health plan and the front door to whatever their member experience is.

FH: What are the challenges in reaching seniors, who may not be as technologically connected, with platforms like Lyft’s? 

MC: There is someone else calling the ride for that member or patient. That could be a case manager, someone sitting in a call center. It could be a discharge nurse. It could be someone in the emergency department. We just put some of our leadership team at Lyft through an immersion experience where we had them pretend that they were patients. We actually took them to a hospital in Atlanta. We had them pretend like they were riders so that they could understand what the experience is from a patient’s perspective. 

I literally said to them, put away your cellphones. A lot of our patients do not have cellphones and you need to be able to direct them to the pickup or the dropoff point. And we have others that you can interact with through text messaging. 

RELATED: Will more at-risk seniors soon be wearing an Apple Watch for their health?

I think the wonderful thing that we’ve done is created a product where someone does not need to understand a smartphone or how to use the Lyft app. We’ve created something that really is comfortable for anybody.  

FH: In Medicaid especially, regulations can vary hugely between states. How do you navigate those differences? 

MC: I think Arizona is a great example. Jami Snyder, [director of Arizona’s Medicaid agency], we’ve been working with her for quite some time in terms of how to incorporate ride share very formally into their Medicaid program. We have conversations, not dissimilar to how Lyft had to go out and create statewide rideshare regulations just for our basic consumer experience. Now we’re really going through and almost replicating that experience. 

If you’ve seen one state, you’ve seen one state. They’re all completely different, they handle their programs completely differently. 

RELATED: Arizona Medicaid to offer beneficiaries ride-sharing with Lyft for nonemergency transport 

FH: When you make an announcement like the one in Arizona, do you start hearing from other states who are interesting in starting the conversation? 

MC: We’ll see, right?  

My hope is that we give them a model, so we’ll be able to begin from how Arizona approached it and see if that might apply in their state. And if not, we’re very open to conversations about what might work in their state.