MedStar Partners with Lyft for Low-Priority Calls

Partnership between ambulance service, rideshare company may be first-of-its-kind in the United States

MedStar Mobile Healthcare, the ambulance service for Fort Worth and 14 other surrounding communities, has formed a partnership with the rideshare service Lyft to help transport some patients who call 911 to the hospital.

“The partnership between MedStar and Lyft here in Fort Worth we believe is unique,” said MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky. “We’ve not heard about it anywhere else in the country.”

When a person calls 911 and their case is deemed to be low acuity — less likely to be an emergency case — a MedStar dispatcher may transfer them to any one of the service’s triage nurses. During the course of the call, the triage nurse makes a decision about the type of care required for the patient.

On a recent Friday, a man called complaining of pain in the area of a gunshot wound he suffered two weeks prior. MedStar triage nurse Betsy Acker, RN, recommended a Lyft to the man since he needed treatment in an emergency room, but he did not require an ambulance.

“Certainly their safety is my first priority, and if they need an ambulance we’re more than glad to send an ambulance,” Acker said. “But if they don’t need one I’m really glad and grateful that I’m helping them get to a better location for their care.”

Zavadsky said MedStar receives calls like that every day.

"It doesn’t make any sense — or cents — to take the patient in the most expensive mode of transport to the most expensive facility to care for them,” he said.

According to data provided by MedStar, the internal cost incurred from dispatching an ambulance is approximately $450. In the month of February, the Lyft bill for 38 rides was $429.97.

The Lyft drivers are not made aware that their passenger is en route to a hospital until they arrive to pick them up, according to Lyft Dallas-Fort Worth general manager Aaron Fox.

“You see so many different people, so many different things and you hear so many stories it’s possible [the trip to the hospital] might not even be the craziest thing they do that day,” he said.

Fox emphasized that his drivers are not expected to perform any medical procedures during the trip to the hospital or the doctor’s office.

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