A lack of transportation is a severe limitation for those in need of affordable health care, so three local forces have united to help transport patients to their medical appointments.

Dell Medical School at The University of Texas, RideAustin and the Community Care Collaborative (CCC) have joined forces to use ride-share services to help uninsured and low-income residents of Travis County access the care they need.

Dell Med reported that the CCC received a Transportation Empowerment Fund grant from Capital Metro Transportation Authority in March to develop a pilot program that would allow residents to request a ride to and from a medical appointment.

The program is designed to give patients free and convenient transportation to medical appointments and pharmacies within the CCC network, initially targeting patients with the most need for transportation assistance.

Dell Med said that its Design Institute for Health is analyzing and researching the CCC patient population’s specific needs and how the program will improve existing voucher programs, aiming to gather data on the technological literacy of the population and its usage of data plans and apps. The institute will also help with the selection, on-boarding and training of patients for an initial prototype, which is slated to launch in August.

“The dysfunction of our health care system affects everyone, but especially the most vulnerable,” said Beto Lopez, co-founder of the Design Institute of Health. “We are addressing this transportation challenge by first understanding the needs, lives and desires of the people we are trying to serve -- in part by exploring why existing voucher programs fall short for many of Travis County’s most vulnerable patients.”

CCC said the pilot program should be able to help them better serve those who need it most.

“We believe that by working in partnership with innovative design and technology partners, we will be able to serve our patients better, increase their ability to access care easily and work with them to improve their health,” said Sarah Cook, director of integrated delivery system strategy and planning at CCC. “We are proud to work with our locally grown non-profit RideAustin and Dell Med to improve the health of the community that we all serve, and we are grateful to the Transit Empowerment Fund for supporting this phase of our work.”

Clay Johnston, dean of the Dell Medical School, said the unique program is special because of the groups that helped bring it to life in a special city.

“It’s exactly the kind of solution we’re trying to stimulate in Austin, and we’re only just getting started,” he added.