How Blue Shield of California plans to use Lyft to aid its members

A year-long pilot in Sacramento will enable members to get free rides to medical appointments, lab and radiology visits and to pharmacies.

Blue Shield of California is launching a year-long pilot in Sacramento that will enable members to get free rides to medical appointments, lab and radiology visits and to pharmacies to fill their prescriptions, simply by using their smartphones to order a Lyft ride.

The pilot will be available to 1,000 Blue Shield members with health maintenance organization or preferred provider organization health plans through their Sacramento-area employers, BCS announced this month. The California plan is collaborating with the Blue Cross Blue Shield BCBS Institute, which launched rideQSM, last year.

"Convenient, efficient transportation to and from medical appointments and lab tests is a big factor in contributing to a person's overall health and well-being," says Peter Long, senior vice president of healthcare and community health transformation at BSC. "With the rideQSM pilot program, we can better address an issue that typically has been outside the standard resources of a health plan."

This is the first time Blue Shield is bringing this program to its members, Long says.

What kind of success will BSC need to see when it analyzes the pilot at the end of a year to expand or continue the program?
Long: Our goal is to test this service, gather data and see if we can scale the program more broadly. We will assess metrics such as member adoption rates in using the service, consistency and frequency of use, and the impact on members’ overall health and wellbeing. We will look both at quantitative metrics and qualitative measures that will include feedback and analysis from the medical practice participating in this program.

Can members use the program if they don't have a smart phone? Do most of them have smart phones?
Long: For members to participate in this Blue Shield program, they must have an SMS-enabled smart phone. Yes, these eligible members have smart phones. One of our goals is to make this service simple to use.

How are you making members aware of the program?
Long: There are two ways we are notifying eligible members about this program. One, is through direct, one-on-one contact with members via emails or letters that let them know they are eligible for the program, how they can sign up and who to call if they have questions. We also use take-away information fliers, available in the two medical offices of Associated Family Physicians that are participating in this program, which will be given to patients during routine medical visits.

What involvement does BCBSA have in this pilot?
Long: The BCBS Institute, in partnership with Lyft, created the rideQ program, and it collaborates with local health plans like Blue Shield of California to bring it to local markets. BCBS Institute is the umbrella organization that oversees the program nationwide.

Is this the beginning of a trend for health plans—doing something like this?
Long: We hope so. Studies have shown that having convenient, efficient transportation to and from medical appointments, lab tests and pharmacies is a key social determinant in contributing to a person’s overall health and well-being. In fact, research shows that an estimated 3.6 million Americans miss medical appointments every year due to unreliable transportation. This not only impacts their personal health, but it costs the U.S. healthcare system about $150 billion.

At Blue Shield, we’re taking a comprehensive approach to improving the health of individuals and communities. Pilot programs like this will be important in finding new ways to transform our overall healthcare system to deliver better health results while making healthcare more affordable by offering practical solutions for people in their lives.