As we explored in our recent Fortune feature on the digital health revolution, one way that technology is transforming medicine is via telehealth. Being able to check in with a doctor on your smartphone or a special kiosk at work eliminates a whole lot of hassle and excess costs.
But the reality is that, sometimes, you do have to go to a physical hospital, including in non-emergency situations. And that's a major challenge for millions of Americans who don't have their own cars or easy public transport options to take them to a medical provider. In fact, transportation barriers are the main reason behind missed or delayed appointments for an estimated 3.6 million people, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).
Now, the insurance federation is launching a national effort with ride-sharing giant Lyft to tackle this very problem—while also gleaning insights into how social factors affect people's health. Under the collaboration, people with certain Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies' plans (the firms cover some 106 million Americans) will be able to get a ride to the hospital at zero cost to them.
"A strategic alliance with Lyft will allow us to positively impact and improve Americans' health nationwide," said Dr. Trent Haywood, BCBSA chief medical officer and president of the BCBS Institute, in a statement. "Many Americans live in areas where medical care is beyond the reach of walking, biking or public transportation. As a result, they struggle to access critical health care services, even when they have health insurance. We are committed to addressing issues like transportation that are inextricably linked to health outcomes, yet can’t be tackled through health care resources alone."
The medical transportation service will be rolled out over the next several months and incorporate Lyft's platform into a new BCBS service delivery model.
Other companies have struck similar deals with health care providers. For instance, Lyft competitor Uber has its own programs for delivering non-emergency medical transport. But the new BCBS project is on a whole different scale.
This essay appears in today's edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.