New Jersey hospital offers Lyft rides to transport patients to medical appointments

University Hospital patients will soon be able to use Lyft to receive free rides to and from their appointments.

The Newark, N.J.-based health system will begin rolling out the transportation service, at no cost to patients, for appointments at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital and the internal medicine or pediatric medicine departments at its ambulatory care center in Newark.

The service is available through University Hospital's collaboration with Hitch Health, a healthcare technology company that seeks to remove transportation barriers for patients through software that integrates EHR and appointment systems with rideshare services including Lyft. Hitch Health will provide patients with rides and coordinate pick up and drop off times through HIPAA-compliant text messages, according to a University Hospital news release. Communicating with patients through text message eliminates the requirement of a smartphone and the Lyft mobile application to schedule rides.

"We know that our patients' health outcomes can hinge on whether they're able to get a safe ride to and from their appointments," University Hospital President and CEO Shereef Elnahal said. "That's because transportation can often be the difference between seeing a [physician] and going without much needed services — only to find folks at the doorsteps of our emergency room down the road."

To ensure patient confidentiality, Lyft drivers who transport University Hospital patients will be unable to distinguish whether the ride was called by Hitch Health or scheduled through the company's app, according to the news release.

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