'You can't manage what you don't measure': How Lyft, Epic are tackling patients' SDOH needs through new integration

Lyft partnered with Epic in early October on a new integration that allows healthcare workers to coordinate rides for patients directly from the EHR, a move that aims to ease transportation insecurities and reduce patient no-show rates.

"Our goal at Lyft is to alleviate the burden that transportation insecurity has on patients, understand its impact on utilization of healthcare services and outcomes, and ultimately tailor technology-enabled transportation programs to meet patients' needs," Lyft Vice President of Healthcare Megan Callahan told Becker's Hospital Review. "With Epic, we are working toward helping our joint customers demonstrate how their SDOH programs impact their patients and their organizations."

Health systems that have signed on for the new Lyft for Epic integration include Tampa General, Ochsner Health and Denver Health. As part of the partnership, which was announced Oct. 8, Lyft is also working with health system partners to create data-driven reports that measure the impact that ride-hailing services have on hospital costs and population health outcomes.

Here, Ms. Callahan and Alan Hutchison, vice president of population health at Epic, share some of the goals for Lyft and Epic's partnership in the year ahead as well as how the collaboration plans to continue building on initiatives to meet patients' SDOH needs.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What does Epic and Lyft's partnership mean for the healthcare industry? 

Megan Callahan: The Lyft for Epic integration will give health systems the resources to ensure transportation isn't a barrier to care, while having an immediate impact on their operations, the bottom line and their patients. Epic is the leading EHR that the majority of top-ranked hospitals use, with more than 250 million patients having a current electronic record in Epic. By accessing Lyft directly from that EHR, which nurses, case managers and other healthcare workers are in all day, hospital staff can schedule rides from the patient record rather than needing to sign into a separate tool. This alone has been a huge barrier to ordering rides for patients.

Our own research shows that Lyft can help providers reduce patient no-show rates by up to 27 percent when they arrange a Lyft ride when booking an appointment. Even more, booking a Lyft at the time of patient discharge leads to less crowded waiting rooms and improved patient throughput. The integration will also provide the ability to proactively identify patients that may need a Lyft ride and have pre-built reports to show the impact of Lyft rides on financials and patient health. Historically, health systems haven't had a seamless way to connect their transportation program to hospital data to prove the positive impact of their rideshare programs. We're excited about the possibility here.

Alan Hutchison: It means greater convenience for patients and a better experience for providers. Most importantly, it helps people with transportation barriers get to their appointments. These kinds of cross-industry partnerships can bring a lot of value — from healthcare providers working with local farmers to distribute healthy food, to payers providing housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Q: How will the Epic and Lyft partnership help hospitals address social determinants of health challenges for patients? 

MC: Our goal at Lyft is to alleviate the burden that transportation insecurity has on patients, understand its impact on utilization of healthcare services and outcomes, and ultimately tailor technology-enabled transportation programs to meet patients' needs. With Epic, we are working toward helping our joint customers demonstrate how their SDOH programs impact their patients and their organizations. Collecting SDOH data, including access to transportation, is important because we can't effectively design interventions for those who need them unless we're able to screen for transportation insecurity, identify who needs assistance and engage with those patients.

This integration is another step in our journey to ensuring the healthcare industry has a reliable way to measure how access to transportation can impact overall health outcomes, and it's in line with our work with The Gravity Project, a collaborative that's developing standards based codes for SDOH, such as if a patient has access to transportation. You can't manage what you don't measure. In the future, we see a world where social care is integrated into the clinical digital infrastructure – Epic is a great example of that. This will enable us to understand how different types of social care interventions drive results for different populations. For example, we could measure how the health outcomes of a patient cohort are impacted when they have access to a reliable and affordable transportation program.

AH: In Epic, everything is structured around the patient in a single, comprehensive record — from the clinical chart, to demographic and insurance information, to social determinants of health — within and across organizations. The breadth and depth of that information means the system can help providers understand where their patients might need support and connect them with resources that can help. Our relationship with Lyft is a great example of how IT can reduce barriers to care.

Q: What are your goals for the collaboration in the year ahead? 

MC: We are actively working with several of our existing health system partners to ensure they take advantage of this integration. We're at the start of our outreach, but many health systems like Ochsner Health, Denver Health and Tampa General have already committed.

This also is an ongoing collaboration with more features to be rolled out over time. We are aiming for the more advanced features, like health systems having the ability to generate reports, to be available soon.

AH: Over the next few months, we'll be working with Lyft and our provider organizations to get the integration up and running. We'll continue to invest in research and development in this area and design new features that make it simple for patients to request rides to their appointments. While right now we're focused on healthcare providers, it'll be interesting to think about how this might help our payer customers, too.

Q: What challenges do you anticipate and how do you plan to overcome them? 

MC: As we continue to navigate COVID-19 without a vaccine, we are seeing shifts in how people access care. Lyft is focused on providing safe access to healthcare for those in need, including the many non-COVID-19 patients who still need access to routine medical care like kidney dialysis, chemotherapy and prenatal care visits. We've focused this year on investing in our technology to ensure that Lyft is the best possible option for non-emergency medical transportation, which includes this integration with Epic to support our health system partners.

AH: Addressing SDOH provides an opportunity to prevent more serious health issues down the road — improving quality of life for patients and reducing costs for the healthcare system. The challenge is identifying the programs that have a demonstrable impact and helping make them a reality around the world.

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