The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wants to help people pick up their prescriptions.
The insurance group's new subsidiary, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute, is partnering with Lyft, Walgreens and CVS to offer rides to drugstores. The move comes nearly a year after the BCBS association announced it started working with Lyft.
The BCBS Institute will test the pharmacy rides at select Walgreens locations in Chicago and select CVS locations in Pittsburgh. Patients in both cities will also be able to get rides to their primary care physicians. BCBS insurance companies will pay for rides to doctors, and the retailers will pay for rides to and from pharmacies.
Using ride-sharing services in health care has become more common as the industry tries to overcome barriers people face when trying to access services. One of those issues is transportation.
"What we wanted to be able to do was to look for opportunities to immediately impact some of the barriers we're seeing, and one we thought we could immediately address was transportation," said Dr. Trent Haywood, BCBSA chief medical officer and president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute.
Lyft and Uber have both introduced technology to allow doctor's offices to schedule rides for their patients. The BCBS Association is the first insurer Lyft has announced it's working with, and this initiative to bring patients to pharmacies is the first of its kind, said Chief Business Officer David Baga.
This is also the first time CVS and Walgreens have experimented with coordinating transportation to their pharmacies. The idea is that by helping people pick up their prescriptions, they can boost the rates of people taking their drugs, improve patient outcomes and ultimately lower costs.
Nimesh Jhaveri, Walgreens' vice president of health care services, recognizes it's a "lofty goal," but it's one the company believes there's a need for.
"In health care, one of the causes of poor outcomes is starting to point toward social determinants of health, and one of those factors causing poorer outcomes is missed appointments to physicians and lack of adherence to medications," he said. "Providing transportation gives patients and customers the ability to actually get the health care they need."
Through the pilot, CVS hopes it can learn more about how eliminating barriers can increase access to its pharmacy care and health care services, a spokesman said in an email.
In the short-term, the BCBS Institute will measure the program's effectiveness through changes in no-show rates to physician offices and people failing to pick up prescriptions, Haywood said.
In the long run, he said, the group will analyze utilization rates and see how they correlate to higher health outcomes, such as lower hospitalization rates, fewer visits to emergency rooms and higher rates of adherence to medications.
The BCBS Institute will introduce ride-sharing services for patients to get to and from primary care appointments in a handful of other markets later this year. Next year, the group plans to tackle nutrition and fitness deserts.