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4 Keys to Successful Patient Transportation

What to consider when adding Uber or Lyft to your clinical trial.

Adding Lyft or Uber to your clinical trial service offering seems like an obvious choice. Both are available nearly everywhere in the US, including extensive services outside major cities. Even within major cities, which tend to tack on more taxes, these services are approximately 45% less expensive than a traditional taxi. Combined, Uber and Lyft provide more than 6.5 million rides per day.

Both Lyft and Uber have developed partnerships and business models they claim have healthcare professionals in mind. With Uber Health’s recent launch, the message was clear: this is cost-effective and easy. A no-brainer, even. Just book the ride for your patient, and the rest will fall into place. But is it really that simple?

The short answer is “no.” It’s easy to assume that patients are consumers who are likely already using these services in their everyday lives. Continuum Clinical has had an exclusive clinical trials partnership with Lyft for more than a year, and the lessons learned paint a significantly more complex picture. Using these apps in the context of a highly regulated clinical trial environment presents unique challenges, and arranging the ride is only a fraction of the story. Even more critical is working closely with study sites, helping them understand the offering and how best to present it to patients initially and throughout the trial.

Here’s what we’ve learned about how to take these patient-centric, transportation-focused good intentions and transform them into a successful program.

1. Site engagement is the key to success.

We initially thought this service would sell itself. After all, everyone knows about Lyft and Uber. We assumed all we needed to do was connect one of the ride sharing services to patients through study sites, then sit back and watch the volume take off. We were wrong. Our ability to change people’s behaviors often determines the success of a new program and implementing this service offering was no different. Site coordinators needed training to fully understand the value and logistics of the offering before they could comfortably, confidently, and consistently present it to their patients. 

2. The apps are great, but…

We assumed most patients were probably already familiar with and using Lyft or Uber, or at least had the app on their phones. Again, we were wrong. While our initial solution was centered around patients using the app themselves, we quickly realized that it needed to be complemented with a dedicated, trained call center. There were simply too many patients who had questions and wanted to speak with someone to get answers or needed help booking the ride itself. Site coordinators are busy – overwhelmed, even. They do not have time to help patients book rides.

3. The service is about more than just the ride.

If your goal is to provide patients the best experience possible, then you need to see this solution as far more than just the ride. Transporting the patient back and forth from the study site is the easy part. The most challenging and perhaps most valuable element of the offering is the time and effort required to ensure the patient utilizes the service in the first place. Sites need to be educated and engaged, which requires material development and training for patients and sites respectively. There are also reporting and regulatory components that must be considered.

4. The cost is worthwhile.

Retention is paramount in clinical trials. While transportation is far from the costliest of retention services, it will require funds to execute well. If the service fees associated with these low-cost rides make you bristle initially, consider the cost of retention as a whole. If patient-centricity and successful study completion matter most, these costs are a relatively small price to pay. For sponsors, the return on investment is improved retention and patient satisfaction.

The bottom line is this: patient transportation is important, but it’s more than just a ride to the study site. Continuum Clinical has included patient transportation in more than 90% of our contracts over the past year. It’s a trend that’s here to stay, and one we firmly believe has only begun to impact clinical trials and in turn, healthcare overall. 

Want more information?

Visit us at to see how our partnership with Lyft can help solve your patient transportation problem.