Lyft has been criticized for being too nice when it comes to taking advantage of Uber’s recent stumbles, but there’s a reason for that.
SAN FRANCISCO — Last week, Uber announced it was rolling out a service aimed at helping healthcare providers summon rides for patients. Now it’s Lyft’s turn to up the ante.
Lyft announced Monday that it is expanding its partnerships with healthcare providers to provide the ride-hailing service to doctors and hospitals who want to arrange transportations for patients who can’t get to appointments.
Lyft is teaming with Allscripts, one of the nation’s leading electronic health records companies, to integrate its platform into the daily routines of 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 physician practices and 180,000 physicians, reaching an estimated 7 million patients.
A desktop application allows medical facilities to call multiple cars at once, and sends patients ride details via text messages. Healthcare providers cover the cost of the ride unless otherwise specified.
Although Lyft remains in the backseat when compared to its larger rival Uber, the company has spent the past two years working with hundreds of healthcare organizations through its business-focused LyftConcierge platform.
Lyft chief business officer David Baga says Lyft already reaches “tens of millions” of patients who may be eligible for health and financial reasons for physician-sponsored rides to and from appointments.
“The idea is here simply to give healthcare providers the ability to call a ride for a patient by pushing a button inside systems they already use,” Baga told E News All.
Baga says Lyft is working not only with physicians but also “regulators, transportation brokers and tech partners, because it isn’t just about a healthcare provider deciding you need a Lyft, there are insurers and others involved determining your care eligibility.”
Uber Health, which has been in a testing phase with 100 healthcare organizations since July, allows doctors to call multiple rides for patients using a desktop interface with Uber’s platform. Doctors and hospitals pay for the rides.
For physicians, ride hailing represents a more efficient and cheaper option to taxis and shuttles, but notably not ambulances. Making sure patients make appointments is good for their well-being but it also saves hospitals money and improves their ratings, physicians testing these services and health-care analysts say.
Nationally, missed appointments cost healthcare providers $150 billion a year, with no-show rates as high as 30%, according to SCI Solutions, which provides IT services to the healthcare industry.
These ride-hailing moves into healthcare seems altruistic and solid public relations coup. Who doesn’t like helping sick people in need? But here’s what’s going on.
The business model for ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft still doesn’t pencil out. Paying the driver eats up a lot of potential profit, which is why both are going gung-ho on self-driving cars.
But until autonomous cars dawn, both tech startups can improve their bottom line through scale, which is why they’re aggressively pursuing doctors and hospitals as a source of new customers.
John Zimmer, right, president of Lyft, is shown here during a recent stint as a driver in Nashville, one of more than a hundred new cities opened up by Lyft in 2017.
Baga says that the company’s work with healthcare providers over the past years has already yielded efficiency improvements.
Other Lyft partners include LogistiCare, a service that coordinates transportation to non-emergency medical appointments, and Hitch Health, a Minnesota-based non-emergency healthcare transportation company that uses a healthcare provider’s electronic health records to identify patients who may benefit from a free ride and automatically sends patients SMS texts with details.
Cities are just starting to understand the overall impact of the boom in ride sharing as a mobility alternative.
For example, the low price of rides mean consumers opt for a short Uber or Lyft ride instead of walking or taking the bus, thereby clogging urban streets with cars and cutting into public transportation use.
And consumers even are swapping in Uber and Lyft for other staples of transit. A University of Kansas survey of ambulance usage rates in 43 states found a 7% decline was explained by a growth in ride hailing.
One constituency that might be left out of the new push to partner ride hailing with doctors are those in wheelchairs.
Uber, which recently was sued by a San Francisco-based advocacy group for not provided wheelchair-accessible transportation, is piloting such vehicles in a few cities.
Baga says Lyft is “focusing for now on the ambulatory customers in the (healthcare) system, but we will be working with other transit agencies to extend mobility options.”