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Need A Ride To The Doctor? UC Davis Will Call Some Pregnant Women A Lyft.

Richard Vogel / AP Images

In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, a driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles.

Richard Vogel / AP Images

Doctors say transportation can be a major barrier between patients and their health care. It’s especially difficult for those who live in rural areas, don’t own a car or can’t afford gas.

Hospitals are increasingly trying out rides-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber to get patients to appointments. A new UC Davis pilot program funded by the Children’s Miracle Network will cover the cost of a Lyft for expectant parents. 

Amy Powne, a UC Davis nurse who specializes in fetal care, said this can be an issue for pregnant mothers who are referred to the major facility because their doctor suspects a complication.

“A lot of the time if they can’t get here, the testing isn’t done,” she said.

That means no one’s detecting in-utero problems that might be preventable with fetal surgery. And it means less preparation for a risky birth.

“They deliver their child in Modesto or Stockton, and then the baby has to be transferred, so they’re separated,” Powne said. “Where if maybe they were able to come here before, we could help with delivery planning, and then when they do deliver they’re in the same hospital as their baby.”

To qualify, the patient must have a referral to the UC Davis Children’s Hospital and have a need for transportation. Patients express the need to their physician, and the physician calls UC Davis to set it up.

“We take care of everything,” Powne said. “We tell them the Lyft will be there at this time. We do all the background work with the drivers, where they need to be dropped off. We have a pickup spot we pre-do with the driver, and then they pick them up and take them back to their home.”

Patients are permitted to bring family members or caregivers along for the ride.

Lyft and other ride-hailing services are starting to play a big role in medical care. UberHealth is a service for hospitals, and Lyft Concierge is designed for patient transport.

At the California Pacific Medical Center emergency room in San Francisco, staff use Lyft to help patients get home faster after discharge.

“Having a service like this allows us to know that the patient arrived at the place we wanted them to arrive, which is a great thing,” said Dr. Albert Chan, vice president and chief of digital patient experience at Sutter Health. “These sorts of approaches allow you to feel safer about the patient and their transportation needs.”

Pregnant patients interested in the UC Davis service should talk to their health care providers.

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