Hitch Health Launching Nationwide Service with Lyft Partnership
Hitch Health, a local startup focused on improving patient attendance rates for medical appointments by providing free and convenient transportation, is taking its business national through a partnership deal with the ride-share company Lyft.
The Minneapolis-based startup, which is backed by Upstream Health Innovations, the innovation arm of Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) and its parent company Hennepin Healthcare System Inc., announced the nationwide launch on Tuesday.
Hitch Health markets itself as the only non-emergency health care transportation company on the market. Its patent-pending software uses electronic health records to identify low-income or in-need patients and texts them an offer for a free ride to and from their clinic, hospital or doctor’s office.
By sending text messages and organizing the logistics with Lyft on its end, Hitch Health’s service is able to leap some of the hurdles that underserved populations would otherwise face, such as the need for a smartphone (with the Lyft app installed) or credit card.
Medical appointment no shows are an incredibly costly problem that affects every hospital across the nation. With each no show costing physicians $200 on average and a no-show rate of up to 30 percent nationwide, the problem’s annual cost to health care institutions in the U.S. is said to be $150 billion, according to the Florida-based publication Health Management Technology.
“Why were they not showing up for their appointments? How could we make it easier to get a ride? Do they prefer texting or calling? Starting from the point of view of the patient and asking those questions led to a design philosophy—and a program—that is easy to use, simple to understand and calibrated to what our patients need and want,” said Susan Jepson, Hitch Health co-founder, on the initial thought process behind the startup, in a statement. (Dr. Chip Truwit is the startup’s other co-founder.)
Hitch Health’s national rollout was preceded by a six-month pilot phase in the Twin Cities area. The startup said it partnered with Lyft during the trial period to find and offer its service to “at-risk populations” that go through HCMC or any of the primary care clinics run by Hennepin Healthcare.
Results of the test were extremely positive, Hitch Health said, with patients who missed six or more appointments the prior year all showing up for their scheduled appointments during the trial period. Patients who participated in the pilot also rated their experience highly as customer satisfaction scores averaged 9.7 out of 10 points.
“The success of that pilot program affirmed that Lyft is the right partner,” said Hitch Health’s Jepson, “and that we have a robust, easily scalable solution for patients, health systems and health plans.”
In a statement, Lyft Business vice president Gyre Renwick said the ride-share company was excited to being Hitch Health’s partner moving forward.
“Together with Hitch Health,” he said, “we’re able to get thousands of people to their doctor’s office or clinic in an efficient and reliable way, working toward our mission of improving people’s lives with the best transportation.”