For vulnerable patients, just getting to the doctor’s office is often the first of many hurdles that can impede care.

“There are lots of missed appointments, people not getting to the clinic on time, or even people ending up in the emergency room (ER) because they couldn’t get to their doctor’s appointment,” explains Maryann Vienneau, Program Director for Care Management at Partners Population Health.

To tackle the problem, Vienneau and her team turned to a service that’s become ubiquitous in modern life: ridesharing apps. Vienneau was not alone in recognizing the utility of such services in addressing social determinants of health in a patient population; across Partners HealthCare, requests were emerging to use ride-sharing services for colonoscopy appointments, transportation to the ER, and for patients undergoing cancer treatment. After an in-depth review of available options, the system elected to engage Circulation-Lyft as a single preferred vendor, to test the feasibility of the service for patients.

The service offers a HIPAA-compliant, digital platform to coordinate convenient and reliable non-emergency transportation for patient care—a single access point for scheduling and monitoring transportation. This approach simplifies ordering, improves reliability and efficiency, and reduces the cost of transportation.

Vienneau’s pilot has focused on two of her team’s patient populations—Adult High-Risk Care Management patients and End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) patients—and has demonstrated potential to help an even wider range of patients.

If Partners builds upon this initial pilot, Vienneau predicts that it will not only provide a highly rated program among patients and providers, but also could show a significant return on investment and reduction in overall health care costs. The Population Health team is currently considering how best to scale it to reach more patients.

“I would love to give everyone a ride, all 14,000 patients in high-risk care management. But we have to figure out what makes the most sense,” says Vienneau. “What would the criteria be, what patients will benefit the most?...There are lots of complexities to consider, but I’m very excited to start thinking about it with my team.”

Read more about how the ride-sharing app is helping Partners patients here.