“Study Explores Increasing Senior Health and Well-being Through Transportation”
The AARP Foundation and UnitedHealthcare are collaborating to examine the health and well-being of the nation’s senior population, including the issues of missed medical appointments and social isolation. According to a 2005 study 1 , 4.5 million older patients miss follow-up doctor appointments due to lack of transportation and 8 million adults over age 50 are affected by isolation – which studies show is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
To deepen our collective understanding of these issues, AARP Foundation sought a medical center
partner that could provide access to senior patients with chronic illnesses as well as serve as a research partner that provides the academic rigor to evaluate both medical visit adherence as well as social activity factors on health outcomes based on free, on-demand transportation access.
As a key partner, USC provides both the patient population and the research expertise to evaluate
access to transportation as a helpful health factor and contributor to quality of life.
AARP Foundation selected Lyft to deliver the study’s rides and turned to the USC Center for Body
Computing (USC CBC), a national leader in digital health research using wearable sensor technology who also offered an expertise in contextualized care and social support services analysis. As part of the larger Keck Medicine of USC medical enterprise, the USC CBC provided a diverse senior patient population, both in racial and cultural make-up and socioeconomic status. In addition, as a sprawling metropolis where driving a car is more common than using public transportation, 25 percent of Keck Medical Center of USC patients travel more than 90 minutes to seek its expert medical care, making access to affordable transportation vital and constraints with family members providing those rides a challenge.
The study launched in Los Angeles with Keck Medicine of USC patients over the age of 60 who require follow-up doctor appointments and expressed transportation challenges to complying with their appointments. The participants are screened to ensure that access to transportation is a factor in missed appointments.
Participants are offered cost-free rides – to medical and non-medical destinations – for three months. They are also asked to use a wrist-worn activity tracker daily and keep a daily log of activity during the study.
While other medical centers and long term care facilities have researched transportation needs and
effects for patient compliance with physician visits, no study has also analyzed the impact of the social activity health implications that the free transportation provides.
The researchers anticipate publishing their final results and analyzed findings in early 2019.
“Research has shown that social isolation has a similar impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. With this study, we are looking at whether transportation is one of the solutions to address the isolation that more than 8 million Americans over age 50 experience today.”
— Lisa March Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation
“We hope this pilot will shine a light on important issues like social isolation and lack of access to transportation, and their connection with health and well-being. We also hope it deepens collective insights into the ways older adults can be empowered to make the most of their health.”
–Efrem Castillo, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement
“Our mission in this study is to explore whether we can reduce these medical appointment no-show rates and provide a better experience for elder populations.”
–Dan Trigub, Regional Vice President – Lyft
1 Blazer DG, Landerman LR, Fillenbaum G, 1995; Syed, S. T., Gerber, B. S., & Sharp, 2013; Wallace R, Hughes-Cromwick P,
Mull H, 2005