Via, city of Arlington launch on-demand service to provide transportation to discharged hospital patients – Mass Transit Magazine

The city of Arlington, Va., and Via have launched of a new on-demand transportation service to provide rides home for discharged hospital patients who otherwise would lack the resources to travel home independently.

The program will serve patients of a major North Texas hospital and is an extension of the city of Arlington’s Via Rideshare service, which has provided affordable on-demand rides as part of the city’s public transit network since 2017.

Via says this service marks a first-of-its-kind initiative in the U.S. between a publicly funded microtransit service and a major hospital, and provides a model for how public transit and healthcare organizations can collaborate to address health inequities and reduce barriers to accessing care.

The service is a stride forward in the city of Arlington and Via’s shared vision to enable local healthcare providers to leverage the city’s public on-demand microtransit service.

The on-demand ride service comes after limited transportation was identified as a barrier to healthcare access in the hospital’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, and will expand Arlington residents’ access to convenient, equitable non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).

The service is powered by Via’s technology, which allows trained hospital staff to book on-demand rides home on behalf of discharged patients. Rides are served by the same drivers and vehicles that operate the Via Rideshare service, enabling city of Arlington resources to be deployed efficiently for both microtransit and NEMT, and improve both general mobility and community health.

The service is designed to support patients without reliable transportation options — such as those who do not have someone to pick them up or who cannot afford a ride home. Lack of reliable transportation options can result in delayed discharges for patients, which can have acute implications on both patients and the hospital system. 

“Via believes that every patient should have access to a safe, reliable, convenient ride home from the hospital,” said Eddie Fishman, director of Via for Health. “We’re excited to collaborate with the City of Arlington and our partner hospital to bring simplicity and ease to the last leg of the patient experience, which will improve health and transportation equity in the Arlington community.”

Service highlights

  • Special accommodations: Patients who are discharged from the hospital will receive a door-to-door trip. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be available to patients who need them.
  • Caretakers: A patient’s family member or personal care attendant can join the patient on their ride home.
  • COVID-19 safety: To prioritize the health and safety of riders and drivers, the service will have limited vehicle capacity, partitions and PPE in vehicles, regular cleanings and a mandatory mask policy.

“Our innovative rideshare service is already helping thousands of residents each week who need affordable, reliable transportation for work, school and day-to-day activities,” said Alicia Winkelblech, senior officer for strategic initiatives for the city of Arlington. “This collaboration addresses another pressing need in our community — improving access to healthcare — by removing the lack of transportation as a potential barrier to seeking medical treatment.”

The service will allow discharged patients to travel to their homes anywhere in Arlington and will be available from 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays.


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