Episode #75: How Lyft is building Oases in our Healthcare ‘Transportation Deserts’ – with Megan Callahan, VP of Healthcare at Lyft

Dear Colleagues & Friends,

Have you ever thought of transportation as an integral part of healthcare?

Have you heard the term “transportation desert” used to describe our inner-city, suburban & rural communities?

Are you aware that the literature demonstrates a direct link between the availability of non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) and outcomes such as missed appointments, medication adherence, patient safety and healthcare savings?

During the interview with Megan, I was surprised by my own lack of understanding of how important NEMT is as a major contributor to the health outcomes and well-being of our patients and the populations we serve.

Megan herself admits that, prior to joining Lyft, she did not appreciate the profound impact and importance of NEMT, despite having more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Now, it is her entire focus. Megan Callahan is the VP of Healthcare at Lyft. Prior to her current role at Lyft, Megan served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Change Healthcare. Before that, she served as SVP of corporate strategy and business development for McKesson Technology Solutions, where she oversaw enterprise strategy, business development and M&A for their $3B healthcare IT business. She holds a Masters in Public Health from UCLA.

In this interview you’ll hear:

  • Why Lyft is in the business of healthcare, and why healthcare is a growing business within Lyft.
  • How Lyft delivers transportation to patients through health plans & hospital systems – which differs from the commercial approach we’re used to as individual customers.
  • The negative impact of inadequate transportation on healthcare and health; and the important role Lyft plays in the NEMT ecosystem – in terms of lowering costs, improving safety and providing more personalized care.
  • The rapidly expanding role of Lyft in state Medicaid programs, commercial Medicare Advantage programs, and in leading integrated healthcare systems across the country.

Here are some key points I came away with from this enlightening conversation with Megan:

First – transportation is one of the cornerstones of the ‘social determinants of health’ which are the major non-clinical drivers of health outcomes, accounting for over 60% of health outcomes in our country. As Megan emphasizes, the lack of transportation in healthcare has negative, even devastating, consequences for patients as well as for healthcare delivery systems.

Second – although transport to medical appointments is the major reason healthcare systems & health plans utilize Lyft’s services, studies have demonstrated that the vast majority of demand and usage by elderly patients are for trips to the pharmacy, grocery store and to community and family social events. This should come as no surprise given that food insecurity and social isolation are two social determinants that are epidemic in our country and across the globe.

Third – in addition to the concrete value proposition Lyft is offering – the transport of people to medical appointments – there is another set of deeper emotional and existential issues that Lyft is solving for. Toward the end of the interview, Megan shares a story of a woman with breast cancer who was immunocompromised due to the chemotherapy she was receiving. This woman was using a traditional shuttle transport to get her to the doctor’s appointments. Because of the ride-sharing, it was taking her two hours each way to get to an appointment!  And, because she was being transported with other patients in the shuttle, she was at high risk for infection because of her immunocompromised status. When she was able to obtain a Lyft transport through her health plan, her travel time decreased to just 20 minutes and she was able to secure an individual ride. Megan’s telling of this story is heart-warming and illustrates not only the clinical but also the human and emotional impact that high quality, reliable and customer-oriented NEMT can have on patients and patient care.

I leave you with a bit of a reframe on the work that Lyft is doing. It’s as much about the human touch – about human dignity, decency and empathy, about human connections and relationships – as it is about the new technologies and business models that Lyft is bringing into healthcare. Having spent some time getting to know Megan Callahan I believe she would fully agree with me on that.

Until Next Time, Be Well.