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Study Finds Missed Medical Appointments Not Affected by Free Ride Services

February 14, 2018

Patient ride-sharing services have become popular among hospitals and others as a way to help patients keep their medical appointments. Transportation to medical appointments often has been cited as a barrier to medical care.

New study results from researchers at Penn Medicine indicate that such services may not be as effective as previously thought.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, included 786 patients living in the Philadelphia area. Individuals included in the study were patients at one of two primary care practices affiliated with Penn Medicine. The median age of patients in the study was 46, and 72 percent were women. All patients were Medicaid beneficiaries.

The research showed:

  • The rate of missed appointments for patients offered a free Lyft ride was 36.5 percent
  • The rate of missed appointments for patients not offered free transportation was 36.7 percent
  • Of the 392 patients eligible for free rides, 288 (73%) answered their phone when individuals called to explain the service; more than half of those contacted said they weren’t interested in the free ride program
  • 104 patients (36%) expressed interest in the program
  • 85 patients (29%) actually used the transportation service

Each year, more than 3.6 million people miss medical appointments due to transportation issues.  Patients who miss appointments are at risk of poorer health status and a higher cost for their care when a health problem arises that may have been avoided through preventive care.

Through community needs assessments, hospitals and health systems in Pennsylvania and across the nation, work with local organizations to identify community health problems, and provide education, and prevention and intervention programs for community members to reduce the need for inpatient care and lower health care costs.

Pennsylvania hospitals are involved in programs that address food insecurity, opioid and other drug misuse concerns, and a myriad of other initiatives to support better health for their communities.

For more information about HAP's and Pennsylvania hospitals' and health systems' population health efforts, contact HAP's Rob Shipp, vice president, population health strategies.

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