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Trying to relocate nonemergent patients from overcrowded emergency rooms to clinics and urgent care centers by ambulance led to out-of-control costs in the San Diego area. In addition, it’s been shown that some 30% of people who call 911 for an ambulance didn’t even need emergent care to begin with. So, health officials hit on the idea of calling a taxi or an Uber to take patients where they need to be. The question is, will insurers agree to foot the bill? The answer, still to be answered by Medicare and Medi-Cal, will be essential to the program’s success or failure. One factor that may tilt in favor of using a service like Uber or Lyft: Taxi companies are sometimes hesitant to dispatch their cars to pick up people at healthcare facilities, presuming (often erroneously) that the passengers may require extra assistance in and out of the cab, or have walkers or wheelchairs that have to be dealt with (and worst of all, not give the driver a tip). What’s certain is that the city already approved a 24% increase in the cost of transport by its municipal ambulance operator—which some insurers may also refuse to pay. So, private transportation options may ultimately prove to be the most cost effective. Local usage data show there’s been a 22% jump in 911 calls for ambulances in the past 4 years. Anthem Health Insurance has already said it would start covering alternative modes of transportation in 2018.
Concentra had taxi voucher programs in major cities for workers comp injuries. I learned in Las Vegas the reason why service levels were poor is the taxis didn’t like to go to medical facilities. They perceived the passengers would be disabled, thus requiring assistance with a walker or wheelchair, they perceived no tips,Or they perceived short trips say to the pharmacy. In an interesting experiment when I was at the UCA conference on the strip, and didn’t have a rental car, I took a taxi to Concentra. Trying to get back to the strip was very difficult as the taxis had 45 minute to one hour wait times to pickup at Concentra. I then walked 20 yards from Concentra to a Fairfield Inn, where the taxi arrived within five minutes. Likewise in Dallas, my first house was next to a Baylor Hospital. I saw the same issue with taxes and medical in Dallas as I had seen in Las Vegas. Hopefully using Uber instead of taxis will alleviate some of these service issues.

Is Uber an Option for Transporting Patients from Crowded EDs to Urgent Care?
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