Health transportation network Ride Health raises $6.2M

Steven Loeb · January 7, 2020 · Short URL:

The company works with healthcare systems and plans, as well as health transportation providers

While the cost of healthcare, and the impact that has on people's ability to get care, is talked about quite a bit, access to care isn't mentioned quite as frequently it seems, even thought it's possibly even more important to the patient. Basically, if someone can't actually get to and from their doctor, then it doesn't matter what it costs. And if they are forced to put off that care, it can lead to more serious potential health problems down the road.

Even with an increased focus on the social determinants of health, which includes things like transportation, that doesn't change the fact that healthcare organizations are relying on a technologically outdated and fragmented industry to get their patients from point A to point B. 

Ride Health, which announced a $6.2 million Series A funding round on Tuesday, wants to change that: it acts as the bridge between healthcare organizations, health plans, and societies or foundations on one side, and non-emergency medical transportation companies on the other side. By providing them with a a real-time ride coordination platform, the platform aims to make the experience of getting to and from the doctor better for patients.

Creating greater accessibility

The Ride Health platform coordinates the entire ride experience, starting with the ride request, trip assignment, as well as billing and payment. It also provides real-time updates for passengers, coordinators and drivers. Drivers get demographic and mobility information about the patients, as well as accessibility needs and communication preferences; as the patient population that Ride Health is dealing with is often older, so the company has purposely made it so that anyone can use the platform, even if they don't have a smartphone and can't access an app.

When it comes to coordinating rides for their patients on the Ride Health platform, it's often a social worker or care manager who books the ride, as "they’re the ones who are identifying which patients have these needs, because they know those patients well that they work with every day," Imran Cronk, co-founder and CEO of Ride Health, told me in an interview.  

When the social worker goes to set up the ride, they can designate the way the patient wants to be contacted; because many older patients may not have a smartphone that can download an app, the Ride Health platform is specifically set up to cater to patients who have different communication requirements.  

"Some patients have a mobile phone and are able to text on a smartphone, other patients may have a regular flip phone, and may or may not be able to text, and still other patients only have a home landline, and they don't travel with a phone when they go to their appointments. So, there’s all kinds of different configurations and workflows that we do, based on the way the communication information is organized," said Cronk.

"Some people have caregivers who are traveling with them, and they may have a phone, so we need to know that that’s a caregiver, what their name is, what their relationship is. So, communication very quickly gets very complicated, but our core value is accessibility. We want to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their communication capability, so there’s no smartphone app to download."

Once the ride is requested, the platform takes the patient;s profile information and identifies the right vehicle and driver to meet their needs; the company partners with curb-to-curb mobility platforms, including Uber Health and Curb Mobility, which operates many of the yellow cabs across major cities in the U.S.

In addition, Ride Health has a slate of traditional, non-emergency medical transportation companies which offer different levels of service, including door-to-door assistance, where the driver is trained to help someone from the door of their home to the vehicle, and then to the door of the facility, and door-through-door, where the drivers helps the patient go from inside the home to inside the facility.

The company also partners with wheelchair accessible transportation, stretcher vans, and basic life support and advanced life support ambulances. 

No patient has so far paid to access transportation on Ride Health; instead, the cost is covered by the enterprise client, whether it’s their hospital or health plan, or one of the societies or foundations that the company works with. Those healthcare organizations are able to track ride activity, performance, and patient satisfaction.

A two-sided marketplace

While there's obvious benefit for the patients, Ride Health's customers are health systems and plans, which the company helps deal with issues they have where patients are unable to adhere to their appointments. 

Right now, these organizations have a lot of issues in terms of getting patients to adhere to their appointments, "or to see timely transitions of care other home or across other care sights," he said, so he company is "allowing them to build, or strengthen, their existing enterprise transportation programs."

"On the health plan side, you have some traditional benefits around transportation that are generally poorly managed, and account for a small amount of spend but a really high, out sized percent of complaints and grievances. So, it can be less than one percent of spend but 60 to 70 percent of complaints from your members are related to the rides that they’re receiving."

The impact of the Ride Health platform for the healthcare systems can be measured in patient adherence, meaning the percentage of patients who show are able to up for their appointments, as well as how quickly patients can be discharged from the hospital. Virtua Health System, for example, saw a seven fold return on investment when using Ride Health to improve adherence for primary care visits, while Penn Medicine saw a reduction in delayed discharge of six hours when arranging discharges through Ride Health from their inpatient setting.

"That translates into faster bed turnover for them and it enables them to get patients in who need those beds sooner, so there’s some powerful incentives in the health system segment," Cronk told me. "As far as health plans, the opportunity is even larger because, ultimately, these are the stakeholders that are financially accountable for the most part for escalations and delays in care that occur."

The other side of Ride Health's marketplace is its national network of credentialed transportation providers.

The non-emergency medical transportation industry is filled with small players that don't have much scale right now, Cronk explained; what Ride Health is doing is helping to consolidate it,  while also helping them with other aspects of their business, including their insurance, as well as their marketing strategies, which can include setting up websites so they can promote their services locally.

"There are 17,500 non-emergency medical transportation companies across the U.S., so it’s a highly fragmented industry, generally comprised of a lot of mom and pop transportation operators. For many of them, the most important thing is incremental trip volume, as well as getting paid for those trips. For them, the advantage of working with Ride Health is that they have the ability to receive high quality trip offers to supplement their existing business, which they get paid for those in a timely manner," Cronk said. 

"From a system perspective, the reason its nice for them to use Ride Health is that they oftentimes don't have the bandwidth to go around and manage a bunch of relationships with hospitals and health plans. Instead, they can plug into our ecosystem and receive these high quality trip offers from all of these different trip sources, and focus more on their core operations, rather than on full time sales and business development. So, it consolidates their relationship management a little bit."

On the transportation company side, Ride Health doesn't require their partners to sign into a portal or dashboard "because these people have portal fatigue," Cronk explained.

"Instead, we integrate with their dispatch system that they’re already using natively, so we’re able to push the trip requests to them, and in a format that’s convenient for them them see and manage. And then they’re also able to manage those trips within their dispatch system, so we’re getting better real-time data from them as the trips go through their life cycle. So that’s really the key to our success from a network and transportation partner perspective, is those those dispatch software integrations."

All of this allows Ride Health to do performance measurement and management so the company can get insights into things like on-time arrival, and then change the way it assigns trips based on all of these performance measures. 

"That ensures that it’s the most cost effective ride that’s selected, but also the most reliable one, and the one that creates the best passenger experience, as measured by the ratings on a scale from one to five that they provide each time," said Cronk. 

Making Ride Health ubiquitous

The new round of funding was led by Activate Venture Partners, along with Newark Venture Partners, Anthro Ventures, BioAdvance, Leading Edge Ventures, and Startup Health. The company plans to use the money to expand its network of transportation partners; it's currently operating in 30 states, and it expects that to increase to all 50 states within the next eight to 12 months.

The other focus will be scaling its work with health plans across Medicare Advantage, as well as Medicaid managed care, while continuing to partner with health systems. That will mean the company will be growing its sales team; Ride Health has 25 full time employees now, and expects to have 40 to 45 by the end of next year. 

Ultimately, Ride Health's goal is to bring real-time visibility to the intersection of healthcare and transportation, while also making the experience consistent for the patient, no matter what type of transportation they're using. 

"These are two multi-trillion dollar global industries, and we’re doing this in a similar way to how Flexport has done for cargo logistics across the global supply chain. Perhaps our task is more challenging because we’re also taking care of people who are vulnerable and need access to life-saving care, but the goal is to do something on that scale. So, ubiquity is the goal there. Bringing the standards that we have around real-time data capture, and proactive support and monitoring, those need to be ubiquitous," said Cronk.

"Our goal, while doing that, is to ensure that we’re able to keep the same level of care, and the same values we have at our current stage, as we scale. Where the traditional incumbent players have faltered is not being able to scale their management of transportation providers, and their management of day to day operations, given those complexities of scale. So, we’re mindful of that, and we want to scale with quality, which is common for a lot of companies to say but it’s especially important in what we’re doing." 

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