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

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   May 02, 2019

Lyft VP Megan Callahan discusses how the transportation company aims to be a reliable partner for healthcare organizations.

Lyft, the ridesharing company, is seeing significant change this year as the business makes a bigger footprint in the healthcare industry.

As part of the San Francisco–based company's long-awaited debut on Wall Street, Lyft went public last month with a specific goal to become a major player in the healthcare industry by leveraging its transportation and technological capabilities. 

Megan Callahan, former top executive at both Change Healthcare and McKesson, was hired in 2018 as Lyft's vice president of healthcare to oversee the company's effort to use its extensive transportation capabilities to provide affordable, reliable rides for patients' medical visits. 

HealthLeaders recently interviewed Callahan about Lyft's goals in the healthcare arena. This transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

HealthLeaders: What are the specific goals for Lyft as it moves into healthcare? Can you give me a timeline of when you'd like to achieve these goals?

Megan Callahan: My team is trying to reimagine the way healthcare organizations get patients everywhere they need to go. There are three things we're trying to solve: operational inefficiencies, better patient experience, and cost.

Rideshare offers a modern approach to [non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT)] and it offers on-demand scheduling, direct routes, greater reliability, and higher customer satisfaction. Moreover, we do it generally with roughly 30% cost savings to what a typical NEMT solution is.

In terms of our goals, it's to continue allowing our partners to excel around those three areas, and I think in terms of a timeline to achieve those goals, we're well on our way to doing that.

One big differentiator for Lyft is the number of organizations that we partner with and that makes us uniquely positioned to address healthcare transportation, given that we have deep subject matter expertise and relationships with thousands of healthcare organizations. [This includes] large health systems like Ascension [Health] to top brokers, who are important constituents in the value chain, as well as payers.

What I'm focused on is leveraging this great foundation that Lyft created and making sure that those existing partners are scaling with Lyft and we are working with them more and more over time.

HL: I'm curious what drew you to Lyft from Change Healthcare, and what experiences you've been able to leverage into your new role?

Callahan: My role at Change Healthcare as chief strategy officer was more focused on reducing healthcare costs and complexity, as I oversaw a $3 billion portfolio there.

What drew me to Lyft was the opportunity to get more involved on the access and cost sides of the equation.

Another was to try and leverage some of the relationships that I have to solve a specific problem in healthcare versus working at a broad level across multiple products and multiple solutions.

I thought that Lyft had taken a commonsense approach to healthcare transportation that addressed two of the main trends impacting the healthcare industry: One is cost, declining reimbursement. And [two], the fact that patients want a retail and consumer experience. We do not want to be treated in our healthcare any differently than we are in our normal life.

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People want something easy, smart, in real time. I was attracted because what Lyft has done in healthcare is, they've taken their bread and butter of creating this great consumer experience and applied it to a vertical that, quite frankly, is not exactly known for its great patient experience.

[Lyft] has done it in a way that the patient doesn't even need to have a smartphone in order to get that experience. They can have a discharge nurse or case manager call that ride for them, but they still get the benefit of it showing up and understanding when it was going to show up.

HL: I'm curious how you respond to some of the resistance to embracing ridesharing as an effective business model for healthcare? I'm citing the skeptical JAMA study from last year.

Callahan: What I would say about that study is that it was somewhat challenged in the design. [The study] only examined certain factors, it was limited to a single urban neighborhood, it only offered one ride over the length of the study, and it only provided transport to primary care physician offices. I think one thing that we're focused on is our research strategy.

The results of that study were contradicted by what we have seen time and time again from our work with dozens of other partners in healthcare, as well as some more recent studies that show that rideshare provides a cost-effective option for Medicaid in particular.

HL: A lot of payers are increasingly welcoming Medicare Advantage because it's popular with consumers. Is MA a component of Lyft's business model, and is it likely to benefit the company in the long term?

Callahan: I think [ridesharing] benefits MA members, but certainly I believe that MA plans will increasingly leverage transportation as either a value-added service or a benefit to their members.

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If you think about an MA member who might either be socially isolated or might not be able to drive, a relatively inexpensive Lyft ride to get them either to their medical appointments or to other services that support their overall health—whether that's a grocery store, pharmacy, or a community event—is a good investment, [especially] for MA plans who are trying to maintain the health of their membership. Those are conversations that, quite frankly, I'm excited to have.

HL: Can you explain how this grocery access program came to be and where it is going?

Callahan: Lyft is strong at getting patients to medical appointments, but we made an announcement right around HIMSS in February, that we were expanding to get people into other types of services or programs that support their health. There's about 23 million people who live in food deserts in the United States, and of that, 2.3 million people live in low-income or rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket.

We started with a pilot in Washington, D.C., and we had great success after we started in January, giving thousands of subsidized rides to people trying to get to healthy food options. We were excited to expand that program across the country, now in more than a dozen cities. I think that's resonates with Lyft's mission and what we're trying to do from a healthcare perspective.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: Photo credit: JYVASKYLA, FINLAND - JANUARY 4, 2018: Lyft logo on smartphone screen. Lyft is an American company offering transportation services online. Illustrative editorial. - Image / Editorial credit: Tero Vesalainen /


Megan Callahan, Lyft's vice president of healthcare, said the ridesharing company is aiming to solve operational inefficiencies, better patient experience, and cost.

Lyft also recently expanded its grocery access program to provide affordable rides to people in low-income areas in more than a dozen cities.

"What I'm focused on is leveraging this great foundation that Lyft created and making sure that those existing partners are scaling with Lyft and we are working with them more and more over time," Callahan said.

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