Ford Grows in Medical Transportation Space

July 3, 2019

Why the auto maker sees transportation as an opportunity.

Auto maker Ford will expand their GoRide non-emergency medical transportation service to work with more healthcare organizations in more areas.

GoRide Health is a non-emergency medical transportation service primarily working with health insurance payers, healthcare systems, and city agencies to increase mobility for the elderly, people living with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged.

“[GoRide] was developed to support Ford's vision of mobility-that is should be inclusive and be accessible for everyone. Ford provides brand new vehicles and proprietary technology to ensure efficient, on-time pickup. Customers can call or use an online portal (if they are a hospital or facility) to order and coordinate rides,” Minyang Jiang, CEO, GoRide Health LLC, tells Managed Healthcare Executive. “We are not in healthcare because it's sexy to be in healthcare. We are in healthcare to solve a mobility problem, potentially the biggest of our time.”

Insurers are required to pay for Medicaid customers where applicable, and some have transportation as a covered benefit in their Medicare plans. GoRide is contracted with multiple hospitals and payers.

“Auto manufacturers have been looking to get into the ‘service’ of transportation, and rather than just sell to transportation companies, move vertically and operate transportation companies themselves,” says Josh Komenda, president of Veyo, a non-emergency medical transportation company located in San Diego.

Changing the standard

GoRide Health is building a service that it hopes will change the industry standard.

“Think about Ford's expertise in scale, integration, and manufacturing capability and how that can translate into an effective mobility business focused on patients that may be difficult for other providers to work with,” Jiang says. “We are looking to bring innovative services into the vehicle-such as patient surveys, or helping to take certain assessments, or customer education or engagement. So far, healthcare has been looking at transportation as a necessary evil, what if we looked at it as an opportunity to engage a patient for 30 minutes? If we can solve more problems through mobility, we certainly are interested in finding partners who can teach us how what we bring can be of value to them.”

Addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) to improve patient care and improve equity has been a major focus of healthcare organizations.

“Looking at the whole person and the impact of a variety of determinants versus instead of just what you see when a member is in the doctor’s office,” Komenda says. “This covers everything from housing, work, nutrition, socialization, and transportation. Does a member have enough to eat? Can they get to the pharmacy to get their prescription? Do they have a way to access the local community center or job training?”

In terms of SDoH, for example, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield expanded its 2019 Medicare Advantage offerings with the addition of Essential Extras, a new package of benefits that provides wellness services including healthy food delivery, health-related transportation services, adult day centers visits to help reduce loneliness, personal home helpers to help with daily activities at home, and alternative medicine to address pain and discomfort.

Related: Five Things To Know About The Uber And Lyft Provider Partnerships

Jiang shares a similar viewpoint. “We see transportation as both a social determinant in itself and as an enabler to other social determinants,” she says. “We run a logistics business and we are able to move people, goods, and bring other solutions to healthcare to better connect people to the social determinants of health.”

Think of auto original equipment managers who have never been able to serve those who can no longer drive after aging to a certain point, or those who’ve never been able to afford new cars, says Jiang. “To make mobility accessible to all, we need to expand how Ford can be a trusted brand for those who we traditionally have not been able to serve. My own team uses this kind of transportation for their parents and kids, so our view is that we’re solving a mobility problem, that happens to be most acute in healthcare,” she says.

In addition, most healthcare executives are aware of the cost of missed appointments or patient with a chronic condition not being managed well, according to Jiang. “We maintain an average of 95% on time pickup with average wait time of 10 to 20 minutes, even for wheelchair riders,” she says.

The first results of these efforts toward a comprehensive, ‘whole person’ approach have been positive-both for the member and for the healthcare executive, according to Komenda. “When members receive benefits outside of the doctor’s office, studies have shown improvements in common chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. I think offerings like [non-emergency medical transportation] promise a more reliable, more trackable, more effective way to keep populations healthier, improve lives, and lower overall healthcare costs. Any healthcare executive that cares about improving their population’s lives, outcomes and lowering costs should certainly be interested in that.”

Managed care will find more flexible models that allow them to explore more innovative benefits that focus on keeping people healthy, according to Komenda.

“In the transportation realm, that might mean benefits that include a trip to the supermarket to get fresh food, or a trip to the community center or hair salon to keep people active and independent,” he says. “The data will inform what types of options yield results, and members, plans, and providers will be able to work together to create solutions that optimize healthy living. As we continue to see positive outcomes from these new efforts, we expect to see them expand and develop. It’s been estimated in one study that for every $1 spent on non-emergency medical transportation, somewhere between $8 and $11 could be saved in unnecessary medical expenses. And that’s just when we look at transportation. Imagine when we can make sure that member also has enough to eat, access to community services, and a roof over their head.”