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Analysis

Ford GoRide CEO on Medical Expansion: 'We're Not Just In It to Move People Around'

By Jack O'Brien  
   May 28, 2019

Minyang Jiang, CEO of GoRide, discusses the motor company's nationwide push to grow in the competitive healthcare transportation space.

Healthcare transportation is becoming an increasingly competitive space as ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber make inroads into the business of non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).

While these two transportation companies continue to adjust to operating publicly, maneuver HIPAA regulations, and make inroads with payers and providers, the Michigan-based American automaker, Ford Motor Company, is expanding its medical transportation services in the growing NEMT market. 

GoRide is not a profitable stand-alone entity yet, as it operates under Ford's mobility services division that posted a net loss of $288 million in Q1 2019, according to Reuters. Still, the subsidiary has grown steadily since its launch in 2017.

GoRide began with five vehicles that served skilled nursing facilities (SNF) in Dearborn, Michigan, where the company has called home for more than a century. 

Within a year, GoRide expanded to serve hospitals in the Detroit metropolitan area, along with over 40 SNFs, and secured relationships with two payers. 

Related: Ford Plans to Take Medical Transport Venture Nationwide

This year, GoRide expanded into Ohio, servicing Toledo, with an eye on operations beginning in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, as well as Florida.  

Minyang Jiang, CEO of GoRide, told HealthLeaders that future transportation expansion is expected in North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, and potentially California.

Jiang said GoRide has primarily been working on transportation for patients in wheelchairs, partnering with hospitals, payers, and cities to offer NEMT services along with ambulatory rides.

"[GoRide is] able to serve a variety of use cases, particularly for higher-risk patients, and those with mental health issues, behavioral issues," Jiang said. "We also focus on delivering not just transportation, but services within transportation that our customer may need as we focus on the social determinants of health."

This transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

HL: What are some challenges for GoRide when it comes to compliance and navigating HIPAA requirements?

Jiang: Managing compliance is more about managing complexity at this point. We have spent a year building our compliance standard. One advantage of being within Ford is that we have 100-plus years of automotive regulations practice and understanding federal law, so we have a lot of expertise on safety and security to draw off.

Simultaneously, we have high standards in both security and protecting information. Ford runs its own health plan, so one of the ways that we've been able to work on the HIPAA piece is working with our health plan counsel to understand all the compliance standards.

HL: I imagine having a health plan gives you at least a baseline for HIPAA whereas some of your competitors might be trying to catch up or put some framework in place.

Jiang: Yes, and we work closely with internal and external counsel. We have a conservative interpretation of the federal HIPAA laws to make sure that we're building to the right standards. Most of our contracts are demanding in terms of the level of compliance required and we adhere to them. Our drivers are professional, Medicaid- and Medicare-certified, and they're enrolled in all of the state's accreditation databases, so they go through multiple courses of training past certification.

Related: Lyft Exec on Mission: 'Get Patients Everywhere They Need to Go'

HL: Can you go into detail about what the driver fleet is like in terms of size and their classification as employees or independent contractors?

Jiang: They're not independent contractors, and we work with a partner for driver acquisition. The drivers are employees of that partner, which means they get 401(k), paid time off, overtime, healthcare benefits, and a living wage. We are proud of that, and this is where I think there's a bit of a difference with some of the ridesharing models.

From our perspective, I think that there is a space—and there will continue to be a space—for companies that want to come in, create jobs in the community, and provide a sustainable business model that allows people to take care of their families. It's important to me, as the founder of this business, that we're values-driven. The people that are taking people to healthcare appointments should have healthcare themselves.

I believe when payers and hospitals look at what they're funding, in terms of transportation, that it is bettering the outcome of a community's health and the health of the population. This is where drivers themselves are able to get that care, and it overall benefits the entire community, as well as bringing healthcare costs down.

HL: What's the major selling point regarding GoRide when you're talking to an executive from a health system or a payer organization?

Jiang: The biggest aha moments come from a couple of things:

One, is when we mention that we have standardization and scale, because we have some advantages to leveraging the entire Ford network. An example would be our vehicles, since some of our partners take a ride in our vehicles and get what the member experience is like and how consistent it is. We can be in any state with any footprint. We work with our dealers for service and we park vehicles on the dealer lot, which allows us to become a decentralized system and get to customers faster because we are not centralized in one parking lot.

The other part is the customer experience. Even though we're not the bottom-of-the-barrel cost provider out there, we've proven to be a sticky product. We have a tremendous amount of loyalty and receive customer feedback, particularly from our more vulnerable populations, like elderly people and those who are not able to walk. Those patients start to talk to their health plans about wanting to do this and the reason is because our drivers go through ethics training and have high customer satisfaction scores.

We are accountable for fixing any of the experiences that are not optimal. Once people recognize us, they recognize the brand, and they recognize the fact that we do care about them and we're not just in it to move people around. I think that's where the conversation starts to change.

Related: Uber Goes Public, Following Lyft on Healthcare Transportation Angle

HL: Can you speak to Ford's support of GoRide and has there been concern about GoRide's lack of profitability?

Jiang: We have a lot of support from the top of the house. [The board of directors] understand that [healthcare transportation] is a growing market, and the population we're serving is doubling in the next 20 to 30 years. They also understand it's a tough business.

Henry Ford said, 'Opening the highways to all mankind' over 100 years ago and this is a new version of that. We're now serving people that have lost their keys, are not able to drive, or have never been able to afford a vehicle. That's a market that is in such dire need of mobility and the right kinds of transportation. It's also not a market that as an automotive company that we've been able to include before. 

The other thing I think the board and [the Ford Motor Company] CEO understands is that we're honest about what our limitations are and where we are. We're not going to grow at all costs—that is not how I want to run this business. What we're trying to do is prove out that the unit economics are strong, and we still have a lot to prove out because we're humble in our origins and working with the right people to find the right partner. By the end of the year, we're going to have all the [factors] of possibility proved out and that's when we're going to have regular meetings with our senior leadership and be able to show the data of how this business at scale can be possible.

Right now, our focus on unit economics allows us to say, 'We have high potential there. It's not consistent yet but we can stabilize the business.' I have a couple other things I want to prove out with respect to revenue, cost, and utilization. After that, with a scalable, profitable business model, that's when I think we can go much faster and expand much faster.

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: TURIN, ITALY - JUNE 9, 2016: Closeup of the Ford logo on a light grey car body - Image / Editorial credit: Roberto Lusso / Shutterstock.com


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Ford's GoRide subsidiary is competing with Lyft and Uber for the burgeoning healthcare transportation space.

Minyang Jiang, CEO of GoRide, said that future transportation expansion is expected in North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, and potentially California.

Jiang added that since Ford operates its own health plan, GoRide utilizes corporate counsel to navigate HIPAA regulations.


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