Patients have options for getting to many care settings even if they’re unable to drive themselves or get a ride from a loved one. Some Medicaid patients arrive in the emergency room in an ambulance—even if they’re complaints don’t warrant such urgency. A couple of major health plans in Miami send vans around to collect Medicare members who need to see their primary care, and employers often provide transportation to workers who need to see the occupational medicine provider. This is rare in urgent care, though, if for no other reason that centers tend to be located in urban or suburban environs that are home to people with means of transportation.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a need, though. What about the patient who may have lost their license, or hotel guests who may not have access to a vehicle or know their way around? Helping such patients get to you obviously helps them, but it also helps establish your practice as a go-to site and adds revenue.
There are obvious considerations, such as cost and liability. If you reimburse for bus fare or a driver service like Uber, would Medicare then reimburse you? Probably not, as that could be considered an inducement to utilize a government health plan, which is illegal. That leaves you to decide if doing so is cost-effective. Another option is to engage a driver and a dedicated vehicle to go pick up patients who need care but otherwise couldn’t get to you.
Some urgent care centers have negotiated agreements with local taxi companies to provide vouchers, or for the company to bill the urgent care operator directly for transporting patients to their location. This is similar to bars and restaurants that offer rides for patrons who’ve had too much to drink. You may be able to get a preferred rate based on the number of rides anticipated, or in consideration of the fact that the taxi company is getting a promotional benefit from being your “on call” transportation provider. Clearly, this is not cost free. However, it brings in fees you otherwise might miss out on and could help you build a new relationship with a new patient who’ll be more likely to come in at other times when they don’t need a lift.
Evaluate the cost, check with your liability insurer, and put out feelers to local hotels for a start. If all goes, well, consider expanding the program and promoting it accordingly. Anything that illustrates your commitment to providing care when it’s needed can only help build your business.