Coming to Smart Cities: Prenatal Trip Assistance
Smart cities are meant to make life easier and safer for all of those who live in them or visit them. Some of the most vulnerable residents are pregnant women and their infants. A pilot project in Columbus aimed at helping these people is now spreading to other smart cities.
A lack of prenatal care can cause more complications with pregnancy and birth. When a doctor checks patients regularly throughout pregnancy, health issues such as pre-eclampsia are usually diagnosed quickly. However, this care is lacking if a woman cannot get to her prenatal appointments, and many simple issues go unnoticed until it’s too late.
By providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, cities can easily reduce the number of fatalities and complications in pregnancy. It’s a relatively simple step to implement and can save many lives. In most cases, once you’ve selected the vehicles, all you need is an app so women can schedule their pickups and drop offs. Some companies, such as Uber, are now focusing a portion of their business specifically on this possibility, making it a more cost-effective option.
What is Prenatal Trip Assistance?
Quite simply, Prenatal Trip Assistance is a transportation program that makes it easy and free for at-risk mothers-to-be to attend their medical appointments. Areas with higher infant mortality rates often have limited access to transportation. Public transport is long and tedious. Many pregnant women miss important appointments, both prenatal and postnatal, due to lack of access to suitable transportation.
Prenatal care is essential in ensuring the health of the pregnant woman and her unborn baby. Doctors can catch potential health issues earlier when the mother has adequate medical care, which reduces infant mortality. Access to medical care during pregnancy and postpartum are helpful for ensuring more children and mothers survive with fewer health complications.
Smart cities are always looking for ways to develop better programs to help their residents. The Prenatal Trip Assistance program is one area that could be helpful in most geographical areas. So far, only a handful of smart cities have implemented this type of program, but it should become standard everywhere.
Where It All Started
In Franklin County, Ohio, authorities realized that there was an unusually high rate of infant mortality. In fact, it was one of the highest in the country at 8.2 per 1,000 live births. A study determined that the main reason was that there were many women who were too impoverished to own transportation, and they could not reliably seek medical care. The search was on to find a way to ensure that these women received transportation services, increased communications with their healthcare providers, and better overall care.
Classified as a Non-Emergency Medical Transportation program (NEMT), Franklin County began to look at other NEMT programs around the country. One such program was BlueCare Tennessee, which worked to make healthcare and insurance companies more accessible to at-risk people. They used a third-party tech broker for their transportation needs.
In 2019, the pilot program was launched in Columbus. It focused on eight areas that were considered high risk. The cost? $1.3 million. A large number of women have been helped by the project, and other cities are considering the program to ensure that their citizens stay safe and healthy.
How Smart Cities Can Implement Prenatal Trip Assistance
The blueprint for NEMT programs is already in existence, as many areas have this option. However, by targeting at-risk women who are pregnant, it’s possible to change the rates of infant mortality. How can a smart city focus on this area of health?
The first step is to determine the need and create a budget for it. Surveys of pregnant women will help create a more accurate picture of what each city needs.
Next, you need to select the type of transportation to offer. There are already multiple cities with these programs implemented, and they use everything from Uber and Lyft to ambulances. Uber offers HIPAA-compliant services where the healthcare company sets up an account and pays for each ride. The Uber Health program is not available everywhere, but it can be quite helpful for those cities seeking a better way to transport non-emergency patients. It’s also cheaper than using a taxi.
Medicaid spends roughly $3 billion every year on NEMT, according to the Transit Cooperative Research Program. Using Uber Health would drastically reduce that amount and make it easier and more cost effective to transport women to prenatal appointments. This method also reduces the chances of someone misusing a taxi voucher, which is quite common.
Once you’ve worked out these details, it is fairly simple to provide access to transportation for those at risk. The set up process requires some planning and advertising so the people who can use the service know about it. If you’re using an app for the project, which is the simplest method of scheduling rides, you’ll also need a developer’s assistance.
Consider the Future
Smart cities must also consider future growth. While the program may be somewhat slow in getting off the ground, it will inevitably grow. This means the number of transport options needs to increase and cities must develop budgets to scale with the growth.
In fact, it’s essential that you consider and plan for all future growth patterns. There’s no use implementing a program only to cancel it later due to lack of planning.
Smart cities are meant to protect their citizens and improve their lives. By making health care more accessible to those in need, particularly pregnant women, it’s possible to increase the quality of life for those living in the city. With cities like Detroit, Columbus, and others making the leap, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes standard practice around the world.