When we think of access to medical care, we usually think about costs: Does this patient have insurance? Can they afford the bill at the end of the line? What’s the price of that medication?
But sometimes, the hardest part about going to the doctor’s office is just getting there in the first place.
According to the American Hospital Association, an estimated 3.6 million people in the United States miss out on medical care every year because of transportation issues. Likewise, studies have found that transportation problems are responsible for as much as 28 percent of no-shows.
When we talk about transportation, we’re covering a wide berth, from lack of access to a car to long travel times and lack of basic infrastructure. And while providing a ride to a stranded patient won’t address every disparity, it can make a huge difference.
Access through Uber
That’s why WELL has created a way for health systems to send an Uber ride to patients who need one—automatically, with no staff time or input needed. It’s designed to lessen those disparities and get patients in for vital care.
But providing an Uber does more than that. It’s a great way to show patients how important they are—and provide an amazing, concierge-level experience for a minimal cost.
The Uber workflow can be launched with a keyword trigger, and is coordinated by a conversational chatbot that can schedule a ride by itself. Here’s how it happens:
1. Keywords Kick It Off
Automatically respond to messages from patients that include words like “car” or “ride” using WELL’s Keyword Actions. Once a patient has scheduled an appointment, our system will look for trigger keywords and ask patients if they need a ride to the clinic.
2. A Chatbot Gets It Going
If your patient needs transportation, a chatbot will coordinate all the details—including getting the right address, calculating travel times, and automatically ordering an Uber. Everything is taken care of behind the scenes through the WELL API.
3. An Open Channel Alerts You
Although the chatbot can handle the whole interaction from beginning to end, your staff will be alerted if the patient needs help. A staff member can hop in to answer any questions, then guide the patient back to the automated conversation. (If all goes smoothly, the automation skips this step.)
4. Your Patients Are Delighted
Stranded patients are unhappy patients. But virtually without effort, you’ve reduced no-shows, shown your patients they matter, and helped to level the field for underserved patients. That’s a lot of goodwill for the price of a ride.♥
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Talya Meyers is WELL’s Health Editor. Talya began her career in academia before transitioning to writing full time. She has written for Smithsonian Magazine online, BBC Future, Refinery29, and the Los Angeles Times, among other venues. She is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and Stanford University.