Ridesharing service to help with medical transport

FILE - In this March 12, 2014 file photo, Katie Baranyuk gets out of a car driven by Dara Jenkins, a driver for the ride-sharing service Lyft, after getting a ride to downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Currently up and running is one-of-a kind program, still in its infancy, that’s using ridesharing services to take people to and from their medical appointments.

The Greater Buffalo United Accountable Care Organization is teaming up with other medical providers in Erie County and Lyft — and they say it could save them millions of dollars.

A 30- to 60-day pilot program is underway to help transport patients during the hours not covered by traditional medical transport.

The idea is to cut in half for their patients the nearly 2 million dollars spent every quarter on emergency room visits.

Lyft would also drive patients to preventative medical visits, which would save money in the long run.

Here’s how it works: A patient calls their medical care coordinator, which contacts the doctor, which would authorize the Lyft, meaning patients don’t need an app just to get a ride.

GBUACO is actually financing this pilot program themselves, and they say it will still save them millions of dollars in the end.

And Sen. Tim Kennedy, who help to create the partnership, said this is a perfect example of why the state needed ridesharing.

“Avoiding the ER by way of ambulances,” said Dr. Raul Vazquez, CEO of GBUACO. “It’s sort of managing patients at the right time in the right place with the right people, and I think that’s what this model will do.”

“We recognized that there was going to be new opportunities, not just what we saw as a new and trendy way to move around the community with ridesharing services, but that it would open up business opportunities, and quite frankly, healthcare opportunities in this case,” said Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

The program is expected to be re-evaluated after two months, and currently serves more than 10,000 patients in GBUACO.

Vazquez estimates about 30 percent of those patients will be able to use Lyft to get them to and from their appointments all at no cost.

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