Hospital rideshare programs may enable patients to be more timely in their arrival for scheduled MR appointments.

Ride-share program guarantees earlier arrival for MR appointment

August 14, 2020
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
A new study suggests that ride-share programs offered by hospitals may ensure earlier arrival times for patients scheduled to undergo MR exams.

Researchers at Penn Medicine assessed the differences between timeliness for MR exams and missed MR appointment rates prior to and after the implementation of a ride-share program, finding that it enabled patients to make it to their MR appointments earlier.

"We think this result highlights potential operational benefits for rideshare programs, as increased patient punctuality may improve work flow and efficiency of the imaging site," lead author Dr. Debra Whorms told HCB News. "With a resource of limited availability like MRI, especially with its longer scanning time compared to other modalities such as CT, we expect improved punctuality to have a downstream effect of increasing availability, utilization and accessibility of MRI in the clinical practice, as well as possible economic benefits that can result from decreasing unused scanner time."

The program was started at Mass General Hospital-Chelsea, an affiliated outpatient imaging site of Mass General Hospital located in the City of Chelsea. Chelsea was chosen due to its large population of underrepresented minorities and individuals with lower socio-economic status, as well as because it was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

The team performed a retrospective analysis of a ride-share program nine months after its implementation. Descriptive statistics and linear and logistic regression were used to compare demographic characteristics among patients using the ride-share program to those who did not use it after implementation, and those who used it before the ride-share existed.

Only 151 of 7,707 patients who were scheduled for MR appointments used the ride-share program during the post-intervention period. The majority who used it consisted of older and unemployed patients, as well as those without commercial insurance.

Logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate timeliness, as well as rates of missed appointments derived from patient-related, same-day appointment cancellations. All analyses were adjusted for potential confounders.

Whorms and her colleagues expect rideshare services to become a growing trend among healthcare institutions across all medical specialties, especially in the current pandemic where timeliness to arrivals may prevent waiting rooms from being overcrowded and will increase patient and staff safety by decreasing the number of potential asymptomatic carriers that are receiving radiology care at the same time.

"There are many advantages that rideshare programs might have over traditional non-emergency medical transportation methods, like Ambulette services," she said. "These include lower cost, improved flexibility and convenience, ease of access, and on-demand availability without need for much advanced planning. With the potential for improving patient arrival times and assist patients overcome transportation barriers, the return on investment for rideshare programs is multifactorial as it alleviates transportation barriers for patients in need, improves access to timely care among disadvantaged patients, and enhances clinical operations."

The study was limited by the relatively short period of time in which the program was assessed, which underpowered the ability to detect relatively small changes in appointment cancellations as a result of the availability of the program. The researchers expect these changes to become significant with a larger study sample over an extended period.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.