RideAustin, Dell Med and CCC team up to give low-income Austinites rides to medical appointments

Eilish O'Sullivan

A lack of transportation can be a profound barrier for patients who need health care, so in early August, a pilot program will be giving free rides to eligible Travis County residents to and from medical appointments.

The program is a collaboration between Dell Medical School’s Design Institute of Health; RideAustin, a nonprofit ride-hailing service; and the Community Care Collaborative, a nonprofit health care network.

“Part of our mission is to make transportation more accessible to all residents of Austin and Travis County,” said Bobbi Kommineni, RideAustin’s vice president of programs.

This program was initiated in March when the CCC received a $50,000 grant from the Transit Empowerment Fund.

Kommineni said that the grant will be used to pay for the rides, and the drivers will be paid the same wages they are currently being paid.

“When we talk with our patients, we hear that inadequate transportation is often a barrier to accessing health care,” said Sarah Cook, CCC strategy and planning director, in a news release.

The Design Institute and the CCC will select about 50 patients, who need to attend health care appointments regularly, to participate in the program. The patients must have a need for transportation, incomes at 150 percent of federal poverty level or below and be participants in the CCC’s Medical Access Program. They say that more patients may have the opportunity to participate in the future.

The Design Institute is researching each patient's technological literacy and their usage of data plans and apps. The Design Institute will provide training for the patients so that they are able to access the RideAustin app. The program may potentially offer a call service for those patients who might not have access to a smartphone or data plan, where the patients’ case managers would be able to schedule appointments for them.

“So what we're trying to do is trying to make sure that there is a successful adoption of this application,” said Beto Lopez, co-founder and managing director of the Design Institute.

Kommineni said they do not know how long the pilot program is expected to last. They will test the program over the next six months, look for other sources of funding and expand the program based on what they learn.  

“This is a reflection of the kind of partnership that the medical school wants to create with organizations here in town, which is to really bring disruptive ideas into the healthcare space through a very local community-driven effort,” Lopez said.