Pilot program to offer low-income patients free trips to doctor


Highlights

A pilot program will help low-income, uninsured Travis County patients use RideAustin to get to appointments.

The program is a partnership between Community Care Collaborative, RideAustin and Dell Medical School.

The pilot program is expected to begin this August and will likely serve about 50 patients.

North Austin resident Geoffrey Adair suffers from chronic fatigue, asthma and sinus issues that require him to make trips to doctors at least once a week.

Because of his illness, the 59-year-old, who lives with his elderly mother, is unable to drive or take the bus and depends on her to drive him to appointments.

“It’s a real, real hassle,” Adair said. “If I could get a door-to-door, affordable service, it would take a lot of pressure off her, and that would be a huge help.”

A pilot program poised to launch in August could provide patients like Adair who receive full-coverage medical assistance through Central Health’s Medical Access Program with an easier way to get treatment through the use of a ride-hailing app.

Community Care Collaborative, a Seton Healthcare Family-Central Health nonprofit that provides health care, RideAustin and the Dell Medical School recently announced they are teaming up to help about 50 low-income and uninsured Travis County patients use the ride-hailing service to get to medical appointments and pharmacies.

“We often hear that transportation creates a barrier to accessing health and health care-related services,” said Sarah Cook, strategy and planning director for the collaborative. “We wanted to use existing community assets that align with our philosophy to help our patients access the care they need and improve the health of our community.”

The program will be funded by a $50,000 grant from the Transit Empowerment Fund, which is supported by Capital Metro Transportation Authority and other community donors and managed by the Austin Community Foundation.

NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to get our Morning Headlines email

Capital Metro already subsidizes free and reduced price bus passes for qualifying low-income residents, and some Community Care Collaborative clinics have access to taxi vouchers. This year, more than 53,000 bus passes will be distributed through local organizations, officials said.

But officials say this pilot program will help them determine whether ride-hailing programs can help fill gaps in the local public transportation system and reduce no-show rates for appointments.

Bobbi Kommineni, vice president of programs at RideAustin, said the nonprofit ride-hailing service is looking forward to bringing patients a more convenient method of transportation.

“As a nonprofit, this is very much in line with what we want to do,” Kommineni said. “We want to make transportation more accessible for everyone in Travis County and in the Austin area.”

RELATED: RideAustin lowers fares to better compete with Uber, Lyft

So far, the Design Institute for Health, a collaboration between Dell Medical School and the University of Texas College of Fine Arts, has finished preliminary research by interviewing patients, including Adair, about their needs, technological literacy and usage of data plans and apps.

The institute will help with the selection of patients, who must have incomes at 150 percent of federal poverty level or below, and their on-boarding and training for an initial prototype.

After receiving training, some patients will be able to access the RideAustin app on their personal smartphones and call for a ride on-demand just like any other user.

For others who might not have access to a smartphone or data plan, the institute is working with RideAustin to develop an interface that would allow patients’ case managers to schedule appointments.

NEED A RIDE? What we learned by testing seven of Austin’s ride-hailing apps

Cook said the pilot program will initially target patients with the greatest need for transportation assistance.

“We don’t yet know what a fully funded program may look like, but this gives us the ability to test this idea (and) understand how our patients interact with ride-share programs so that we can scale the pilot as appropriate,” she said.

Even when Adair was healthy enough to be able to walk to and from the bus station, the trips would take him two to three hours because of the walking and multiple transfers.

He’s also tried ride-hailing apps in the past, but with him and his mother living on a fixed income, they can’t afford to use them. So when Adair heard about the pilot program, he said he was thrilled.

“So many people don’t understand; they don’t even know what we go through just trying to make doctors appointments and to get to them,” he said. “(The pilot program) would certainly help.”

Correction: This article has been updated to fully explain the source of funding for the pilot program.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Community news: Council candidate forums Thursday night

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Council candidate forums Thursday The city of Austin, in partnership with the city’s Ethics Review Commission and the League of Women Voters - Austin Area, is conducting a series of City Council candidate forums for the November municipal election. The next forums will be Thursday at the South Austin Senior Activity...
Austin man accused of threatening Taylor Swift was Eanes ISD bus driver, district says
Austin man accused of threatening Taylor Swift was Eanes ISD bus driver, district says

An Austin man accused of writing threatening letters to pop star Taylor Swift was working as a bus driver in the Eanes school district as recently as this year and in 2012, district officials said in a letter to parents and staff. Eric Swarbrick, 26, was charged on Sept. 20 with interstate stalking and instate communications with the intent to threaten...
Average Travis County tax bill to go up by $32 under new budget
Average Travis County tax bill to go up by $32 under new budget

The average homeowner will pay about $32 more to Travis County than last year for the county portion of their tax bill and about $16 more for the health district’s portion. County commissioners on Tuesday approved a $1.09 billion budget and a tax rate of 35.42 cents per $100 of taxable value. They also approved a $246 million budget and tax rate...
Cody Wilson replaced as director of 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed 
Cody Wilson replaced as director of 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed 

11 a.m. update: Cody Wilson has quit as CEO of the 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed after recent sexual assault charges filed against him. During a news conference on Tuesday, Paloma Heindorff, the company’s vice president of operations, said Wilson tendered his resignation on Friday evening, and that he will have no role in the company...
‘Ben is Back,’ ‘Widows,” ‘Green Book’ to play Austin Film Festival
‘Ben is Back,’ ‘Widows,” ‘Green Book’ to play Austin Film Festival

Julia Roberts! Mahershala Ali! Mickey Rourke! Carey Mulligan! And Willie Nelson! No, it’s not the cast of the New New New Hollywood Squares (“I’ll take the Red Headed Stranger to block”). These are just a few of the stars in movies playing this year’s Austin Film Festival, which announced its full slate Tuesday. Here are...
More Stories