Transportation

Columbus, Ohio, Turns to On-Demand Transportation to Improve Medical Access

The Ohio pilot project, known as the Prenatal Trip Assistance program, will use a Web platform that will make it easier for pregnant women to request transportation for medical visits.

by / November 20, 2018
The Prenatal Trip Assistance program in Columbus, Ohio will make it easier for pregnant women to reach medical visits. Shutterstock/aceshot1

A new app to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to get to doctors' appointments aims to help reduce infant mortality rates in Columbus, Ohio. The Prenatal Trip Assistance (PTA) project is one of several transit and transportation initiatives under the direction of Smart Columbus. It will help low-income women who may experience difficulties and obstacles when it comes to accessing proper prenatal and post-delivery care.

PTA will partner with the Ohio Department of Medicaid, medical providers, transportation providers and others to develop a Web-based platform to link patients with transportation, similar to ride-hailing. The system will allow women to book rides, communicate with doctors’ offices and other features. The app will also will verify Medicaid and plan eligibility and schedule the trip.

The PTA app will not just be for doctor visits. “It is grocery trips, it is pharmacy trips … all that don’t usually occur for pregnant women,” said Mandy Bishop, manager of the Smart Columbus program, during a Nov. 14 webinar.

Regularly attended medical appointments during pregnancy is considered an important piece of proper prenatal care, which can then lead to reduced risk of infant mortality, according to health officials.

Franklin County, Ohio, home of the state’s capital of Columbus, has had one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the United States at 8.2 per 1,000 live births from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, up from 7.7 deaths per 1,000 the year before, according Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Also, infant mortality rates among non-Hispanic blacks are three times those of non-Hispanic white infants, with many at-risk infants living in about eight neighborhoods.

As a pilot and research project, the PTA project will sign up 500 expectant mothers from the eight neighborhoods. Participants must be at least 18 years old, in the early phase of their pregnancy, enrolled in Medicaid and be able to speak and understand English. The women will participate from June to November 2019.

The transportation services will also be extended for two months after the mother gives birth, said Andrew Wolpert, project manager for the PTA project. The city will cover transportation costs beyond what Medicaid pays, he added.

The PTA project falls under the umbrella of transit and transportation projects within Smart Columbus, an initiative began two years ago when the city was named the recipient of a $40 million Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant.

CelebrateOne, a city-led effort to reverse Columbus’ rising infant mortality rate, aided in designing the pilot and will also take a leadership role in ensuring expectant mothers are aware of the pilot and its services, said Erika Clark Jones, executive director of CelebrateOne.

“We have a network of community health workers and several community based partners, and we will be doing training on the mobile application and having our health workers engage with pregnant and parenting moms or moms that just had a baby and making sure they know about it,” she said.

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.