Megan Callahan shares the rideshare organization's role in healthcare during the pandemic and what it hopes to accomplish in the upcoming year.
Despite the effects of the ongoing pandemic, San Francisco-based ridesharing company Lyft is continuing to innovate in the healthcare sector.
A primary healthcare strategy for Lyft has been offering rides to patients and frontline workers as well as ensuring customers' access to the COVID-19 vaccine and doctors' appointments.
Megan Callahan, vice president of healthcare at Lyft, spoke with HealthLeaders about how the pandemic affected Lyft's healthcare business model and what initiatives the rideshare organization has lined up for 2021.
Additionally, Callahan shared her 2021 predictions for healthcare, which include:
- “Rising consequences due to delayed care,” affecting both in health outcomes and higher healthcare costs.
- A steady increase of in-home healthcare that will lead to "a greater demand for delivery services, as people continue to be concerned about exposure in skilled nursing and other healthcare facilities."
- Vaccine distribution to vulnerable populations will require "an industry-wide, coordinated effort to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to communities."
- Social determinants of health (SDoH) will migrate from “aspirational to operational,” adding that improved cross-industry collaborations become mandatory.
- SDoH will be measurable in 2021, as “increased call-to-actions for a standardized approach continue to emerge across the healthcare sector."
Pivoting during the pandemic
As hospitals and health systems saw a decrease in patients utilizing services at the beginning of the pandemic, Lyft also experienced a drop in requests for rides for medical care.
"I would say that during late spring and early summer there was a drop off in people seeking medical care in general, which is a big challenge, because the services that they're avoiding are not elective. These are important surgeries, screenings, etc.," Callahan said. "I think that will come roaring back with a vengeance, because people can only put things off for so long."
During this time, the rideshare organization "pivoted" their focus to meeting the needs of customers in other ways, Callahan said.
"This involved delivering food and supplies to customers, especially to vulnerable populations, who needed to stay home," she said. "We [also] pivoted quickly in April to launch our Essential Deliveries program. We just looked at our numbers, and to date, we've done over 2 million deliveries of food for organizations.”
Lyft also partnered with Amerigroup out of Tennessee and the Second Harvest Food Bank to get food deliveries out. According to Callahan, this an example of how “payers, providers, etc. are trying to pivot to get people help in their homes.”
Notably, Lyft provided rides to healthcare workers to ensure "they could get in to do the job that we all desperately needed them to do," Callahan said. She estimated that the company provided 200,000 rides to frontline staffers during 2020 to get them to their facilities or their sites of care.
Forward looking, Lyft has several healthcare initiatives lined up for 2021.
"I am excited about our roadmap," Callahan said. "We have a lot of important initiatives that are going to be coming out."
Concerning vaccine access and distribution, Callahan said that Lyft will be working with its partners to figure out how to get “as many people as possible to get their vaccine.”
"It's a two-dose vaccine, and we want to make sure that transportation barriers are not an issue for either dose,” she said. "We're working with our partners to understand who might be at risk and unable to get to the vaccine, and how we can help."
Electronic health records utilization
In 2020, the organization launched Lyft for Epic, where rideshare appointments can be made at the same time that medical appointments are made through the Epic EHR system.
"We will continue to expand that program and given the focus on vaccines and the fact that our Lyft for Epic integration is directly in the patient record, when someone is scheduling an appointment, you could schedule their ride right from the Epic system," Callahan said.
The partnership will also work to ensure customers can get to their elective surgeries, screenings, and in-person appointments through Lyft rides, according to Callahan.
As with other ridesharing companies and nontraditional players in the healthcare space, Lyft will also be engaged on policy this year.
"We work a lot in Medicaid, given that non-emergency medical transportation is a covered benefit under Medicaid; we do a lot in Medicare Advantage as well. And given that we will have a new president and a new administration, we will be focused on engaging from a public policy perspective to ensure that that [benefits are] protected for vulnerable populations," Callahan said. "[We'll be] watching carefully as states deal with increased enrollment in Medicaid, which we've seen, and continue to expect, as employment increases."
Home healthcare increased during the pandemic, and Lyft has looked at how they can support customers and medical staff in that space.
According to Callahan, the organization is looking at how they can "provide logistical support for how to get supplies, technology, caregivers, other items, that people need in their homes," and "ensure that those can be deployed in a safe way into a home environment.”
Another strong focus for healthcare for 2021 is SDoH, a topic Lyft is addressing through several ongoing projects.
"We announced [in 2020] that we were sponsoring the Gravity Project," Callahan said. The Gravity Project recommends creating a national standard around entering SDoH data into patients' EHRs.
"I do think that will you'll start to see some news coming out around how we're going to code for social determinants of health, and how we can ensure through various pilots that that initiative takes off and gets scaled," Callahan said. "[We're] trying to ensure that Lyft is doing its part to make sure that we can codify and have a standards-based way of dealing with social determinants of health."
Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
Photo credit: JYVASKYLA, FINLAND - JANUARY 4, 2018: Lyft logo on smartphone screen. Lyft is an American company offering transportation services online. Illustrative editorial. / Editorial credit: Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com