UnitedHealth teams up with Lyft, USC, AARP Foundation on ride-hailing pilot for seniors

Patient in wheelchair entering car
UnitedHealth is not the first healthcare organization to team up with a ride-hailing company to help patients keep their medical appointments. (Getty/KatarzynaBialasiewicz)

UnitedHealth, the AARP Foundation, the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing and the ride-hailing company Lyft are partnering on a pilot program that aims to use technology to improve seniors’ lives.

The program will target individuals older than 60 who have missed at least two doctors’ appointments within the last 12 months—at least in part due to issues accessing transportation—and who have an upcoming appointment in the next three months.

The program will offer participants free rides to medical and nonmedical destinations for three months, and they can request rides either through a ride-hailing app or a phone-based concierge service. In addition, participants will wear an activity tracker on their wrists during the study, providing researchers with data to assess the program’s impact on health, quality of life and compliance with follow-up medical appointments.

The initial pilot will launch in Los Angeles in the fourth quarter of 2017, and similar programs are being considered for Chicago and Atlanta early next year. UnitedHealth says its support of the pilot is a part of its broader commitment to the AARP Foundation to address the needs of low-income seniors, an effort that includes a $6 million grant to the foundation.

“We hope this pilot will shine a light on important issues like social isolation and lack of access to transportation, and their connection with health and well-being,” UnitedHealth spokesman Matt Burns said in a statement. “We also hope it deepens collective insights into the ways older adults can be empowered to make the most of their health.”

UnitedHealth is far from the first healthcare organization to team up with a ride-hailing company. Earlier this year, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association announced a partnership with Lyft for a pilot program that aims to provide free rides to nonemergency medical appointments for Blue plan members who live in areas with no reliable transportation alternative.

Similarly, MedStar Health announced in 2016 that it was partnering with Uber to help connect patients to rides to and from their medical appointments.