Getting to and from a medical appointment poses unique challenges for many patients with low income, which can lead to missed appointments, canceled procedures and an inability to pick up prescriptions from a pharmacy.
“Lack of reliable transportation is one of the biggest barriers to accessing health care,” said Dr. Mark Hernandez, Chief Medical Officer, the Community Care Collaborative. “We hear this from our patients all the time. And if you can’t make it to your medical appointments, it’s harder to work with your care team to implement the changes needed to get well and live a healthier life.”
That is why Central Health, the Community Care Collaborative (CCC) – Central Health’s nonprofit partnership with Seton Healthcare Family – and Ride Austin created a pilot program to ensure patients with low income get the care that they need. Launched in August, the pilot received a $50,000 grant from the Transit Empowerment Fund. Since 2017, the program has given 144 unique riders a total of 759 rides to their medical appointments.
“One person has found really good comprehensive health care that works for her at Central Health Southeast Health & Wellness Center in Southeast Austin – but she lives a ways away, ,” Sarah Cook, the CCC’s Senior Director of Planning, Communications and Population Health. “Getting from her home to the clinic was a struggle. Without reliable transportation, we had to scramble for solutions. With the Ride Austin partnership, we can guarantee her a timely pickup – and at a lower cost than other transportation options.”
While the program is working well, Central Health and the CCC want to help even more patients in the
future by integrating technology.
“We have five Ride Austin accounts, and our staff manually dispatches everything right now, which isn’t scalable,” said Cook. “We hope to continue the program with more funding to find a sustainable solution to help people get the care they need.”
As Travis County’s tax-funded health care district, Central Health works with the CCC to examine the complete picture that contributes to patient wellbeing. Transportation is a key part of that picture.
“When we look to the future of health in Travis County, we’re looking at short- and long-term strategies that connect people to care,” said Central Health President & CEO Mike Geeslin. “As ridesharing becomes more accessible and popular, these types of collaborations make even more sense.”
The CCC is monitoring the program’s progress, including areas where rides are more frequent, to help inform future planning decisions. They plan to continue the program into 2019 and beyond.