By Desiree Williams
IU Health patients in need of transportation soon will be able to access rides organized by their care providers.
A grant awarded by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation of more than $200,000 has allowed the IU Health Foundation to license software that connects patients without transportation to non-emergency transportation services to get to and from appointments at IU Health sites.
According to a press release, in 2018, IU Health patients missed 15 percent of behavioral health appointments and almost 50 percent of addiction treatments. Jami Marsh, IU Health Foundation executive director of system philantrophic strategy, said lack of transportation, specifically in Indianapolis and for low-income individuals, is a challenge.
“For those coming to clinics or the hospital for recurring appointments for substance abuse treatment, for example, a missed appointment due to a transportation barrier can be very dangerous and impactful and damaging to their health,” Marsh said.
According to the IU Health Foundation, research shows that patients with transportation barriers miss cancer screenings, prenatal checkups, visit the emergency room more often and spend more time in the hospital.
The grant will secure an 18-month software license. The platform allows care providers to coordinate non-emergency transportation through services like Uber, Lyft, taxis and other modes. Care providers also can schedule rides on a recurring basis.
“The IU Health system is increasingly working further upstream to address community health, and I think transportation is one of the social determinants of health,” Marsh said. “It just feels like a big step forward in addressing that.”
The software will be piloted in Marion and surrounding counties to get patients to appointments in Indianapolis. Marsh said the goal is to extend the service statewide if the pilot is successful.