By Joyce Famakinwa, Home Health Care News | June 30, 2019

As more companies look to address the social determinants that hinder health, transportation has largely risen to the forefront. Several unexpected, non-health care players are driving that high-octane focus — including Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F).

One of the oldest and largest automakers in the U.S., Ford is entering the health care transportation game through its Ford GoRide program, an on-demand or scheduled service for non-emergency medical needs.

“Our customers are the aging people who are living with chronic conditions, and people who may be disadvantaged and cannot afford transportation,” Minyang Jiang, CEO and president of GoRide Health, told Home Health Care News. “We partner with health care systems, health insurance companies and cities that may need to provide services for the elderly in their communities — or for those who require the use of a walker, wheelchair, crutches.”

Launched out of Ford in 2017, Dearborn, Michigan-based GoRide Health allows health care organizations to book transportation for their patients, typically to and from medical appointments.

Unlike the standard ride-hail service, GoRide Health drivers are trained to safely assist passengers. Their services are also HIPAA-compliant.

“We have very high bars for training because we have to be Medicaid- and Medicare-certified,” Jiang said. “They go through things like negligence and abuse training, CPR, first-aid and empathy training. Drivers are able to take care of patients across a variety of complex physical and mental issues. [Our training] ensures that drivers are not reacting when someone behaves differently than what a typical non-trained driver might expect.”

Currently, the company operates in southeast Michigan and in the Ohio markets of Toledo and Dayton. It has plans to expand elsewhere in Ohio — Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, to be exact — as well as North Carolina and Florida by the beginning of next year.

Maybe even sooner, according to Jiang.

“Our goal is to continue to expand throughout those states, as well as looking at potentially expanding to California, Texas, Louisiana and Kentucky next year,” Jiang said. “[Our launch roadmap] is changing as we continue to work with more clients.”

Currently, GoRide Health serves more than 200 facilities across the Beaumont Health network, working with over 50 skilled nursing facilities, four hospitals and two health care insurance payers that have national footprints.

Alternative Solutions Health Network took over Beaumont Health’s home health and hospice operations in January as part of a joint venture agreement.

Future partnerships with in-home care providers are not off the table for GoRide, particularly when it comes to providing transportation to caregivers, who often utilize their own vehicles, according to Jiang. Caregivers driving on the job is a major liability risk for providers.

“We are here to solve a problem,” she said. “We are not trying to say our service is for taking people to the hospital or to health care facilities, from point A to point B and that’s it. Because we are running logistics, we are interested in partnering with those who can help people manage their health better. Even if its something as simple as home health employees not having or not wanting to use their own vehicle.”

In addition to tackling transportation, GoRide Health has also taken on food delivery — with nutrition similarly being part of the social determinants of health conversation.

“We actually work with our clients to co-create services where transportation becomes a means to access other social determinants of health,” Jiang said. “For example, we have a partnership with Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detriot, where we actually worked with them to figure out that their customers were not carrying as much food home as they would be able to if they had access to the right transportation. We are now partnering with the food bank to deliver food to their clients — or bring them to the food bank.”

Generally, diet and nourishment have been shown to significantlyimpact the overall health and hospital readmission rates for home health patients.

The Veyo model

Veyo is another example of a company that is working within the social determinants of health space by addressing transportation needs.

As part of its model, the San Diego-based company partners with health insurance plans to provide non-emergency medical transportation for their members.

The company, at first, took off with the momentum created by the popularity of mainstream ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Since then, however, it has adapted its transportation services to fit the needs of the health care industry.

“We realized that there was a lot more to delivering health care transportation than the consumer companies were doing,” Josh Komenda, president and principal at Veyo, told HHCN.

Transportation companies working in the health care space need to have a keen understanding of the industry, Komenda cautioned. This means training drivers to be knowledgable about everything from intellectual disabilities to behavioral health challenges, as well as knowing how to navigate regulatory challenges and staying HIPPA-compliant, he said.

Since its launch in 2015, Veyo has completed over 17 million trips, boasting $7 million in savings for health care payers. The company currently operates in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan and Virginia.

“We have learned how to package these solutions and have them sit alongside groups of traditional carriers as well,” Komenda said. “The Veyo solution can work with large managed care plans or state agencies. We can deliver thousands of trips a day using our ride-[hail] network. We meet a really broad spectrum of patients needs, and we can also do all of the benefits management, FWA management, utilization management, claims processing, regulatory compliance so, really, a full-service solution for these large payers.”

While Veyo doesn’t publicly disclose which organizations they are partnering with, the company tends to work with managed care organizations that represent the largest payers in the Medicaid space.

Home health partnerships could also be on the horizon, according to Komenda.

“In the future, we see a big opportunity to expand and work directly with those who may not have a transportation benefit through their Medicaid or Medicare plan,” he said. “This means working with various different provider types to close gaps in other areas, given that our network is so adapted to transport people of every need.”

Not to be outdone, major ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber have begun dipping their toes in the waters.

Uber says Medicare Advantage will be an area of focus for the company. Meanwhile, Lyft recently announced that it has become a certified Medicaid provider in Arizona.

“Of course, when you have companies like Uber and Lyft, they are easily able to generate a lot of media attention,” Komenda said. “They are massively successful companies so all eyes are on them whenever they launch a new initiative of any kind. A big difference in the type of work that we do is that we are able to go out and partner with a large payer and develop a complete solution for them. Often consumer TNCs will do much smaller pilot programs or work with much smaller plans with similar needs.”

Envoy America is another example of a company working within the transportation space. In June, the company teamed up with HomeThrive to offer transportation-plus-assistance and companionship services to older adults.

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