Annually, 5 billion dollars are spent on non-emergency medical transportation. And yet, 3.5 million patients in the U.S. still miss medical appointments.
Many patients face a lack of reliable transportation, which leads to higher than necessary no-show rates at clinics, which cause clinics to lose revenue while also causing serious risks to patient health, which lead to more ER visits and hospital admissions, too.
To address this gap, Hitch Health was founded to create a new innovative software that integrates health care appointment systems with ride services.
The goal? To seamlessly and proactively remove transportation barriers and reduce no-show rates.
How did we get here?
We asked patients: “Why are you not showing up for appointments? How could we make it easier to get a ride? Do you prefer texting or calling?”
Then we actively listened using a methodology called human-centered design, a creative approach to problem solving the people you’re designing for — and ends with new solutions tailor-made to suit their needs.
By engaging patients in the design process, we developed a service that could work for them.
You might be surprised to learn that Hitch Health isn’t an app.
In fact, an app is something our patients specifically said they didn’t want because they can’t afford mobile data plans.
They also told us they didn’t want to schedule ride by phone, which results in wasted cell-phone minutes and time spent on hold.
Finally, they told us they wanted to have a timely and reliable ride after their appointment has been completed.
A simple system
So here’s how it works: Hitch Health partners with health systems to determine who is having difficulty getting to appointments because of transportation. Using a variety of criteria (insurance, condition, treatment) and secure patient data, the software determines which scheduled appointments qualify for round-trip rides.
Then the software proactively sends ride offers to patients via text so they can simply text “yes” if they need the ride — and text “ready” when they want to go home.
There’s no need for a patient to wait on hold to try to schedule a ride for an appointment because Hitch Health schedules the ride
automatically with any ride-sharing service.
Successful pilot program
In 2018, we began a pilot with Hennepin Healthcare, a large safety-net hospital in Minneapolis with more than 650,000 annual appointments — and a persistent 19 percent no-show rate.
So far, Hitch Health has partnered with five clinics and has provided more than 18,000 rides to Medicaid patients and is showing an estimated 8 percent reduction of no-shows at those clinics. (Remarkably, 80 percent of the patients who used the service had six or more missed appointments in the previous 12-month period!)
Of the 5,500 patients who have taken the voluntary satisfaction survey, Hitch Health earned a score of 9.7 out of 10.
Though this program has been offered only to patients with Medicaid coverage so far, we know that many seniors not on Medicaid also have issues getting to and from appointments.
So we’re now exploring the Medicare market by working with health plans, health systems — and seniors — to determine the best approach for their transportation needs so we can potentially expand this service.
We feel it’s time to drive patients to better health by using Hitch Health.
Susan Jepson is the vice president and co-founder of Upstream Health Innovations at Hennepin Healthcare. She recently co-founded and launched Hitch Health.