Each year, millions of people in the United States miss routine medical appointments simply because they don’t have a ride, and research shows that lack of transportation is one of the most common barriers faced by low-income populations in accessing medical care. This is not a new situation. Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) has been available through Medicaid since its inception in 1966, but many Americans are still unaware of how to use their transportation benefit — or that it even exists.>

“My driver and I had so much in common, I felt like I was riding with family.”  


Fortunately, many health plans are turning to technology to optimize their transportation benefits. These plans specialize in managing NEMT benefits with technology not unlike the kind used by rideshare companies worldwide. This technology may take the form of mobile applications that patients use to pinpoint driver locations. It may mean machine learning software that stores patients’ information to match them with the most appropriate provider for their needs. Health care providers see large potential savings by using these technologies and, when done right, patients get a much better transportation experience than they would otherwise. As one member stated, “My driver and I had so much in common, I felt like I was riding with family.”  

Many health plans are also putting increased emphasis on what the industry calls social determinants of health. These determinants, like food insecurity or unemployment, have a significant impact on generational health and cost to the national health care system. Luckily, the same technologies used to get patients to medical appointments can also be used to get members with social determinants to their jobs, grocery stores, pharmacies, addiction clinics or children’s day cares, thus addressing patients’ transportation needs and overall health from a more holistic perspective. When providers consider people’s broader needs and leverage new technologies, key challenges within our health care delivery system can be more clearly defined and addressed.