BU medical students win national award for eliminating transportation barriers for patients
(Boston)–Two medical students from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have received the Lancet Global Health Award for Best Student Poster for their presentation, “Uber Health: A Novel Method of Eliminating Transportation Barriers To Care Among Urban OBGYN Refugee Women.” The award was presented at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.
Simone Vais, a third-year student and Justin Siu, a second-year student, began this work as part of a summer research project. It focuses on overcoming transportation barriers to health-care access at Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) Refugee Women’s Health Clinic (RWHC).
Lack of transportation has been shown to be a major barrier to health-care access nationwide. It disproportionately impacts patients of lower socioeconomic status. This barrier is particularly burdensome for patients at the RWHC, many of whom report lack of familiarity with the public transportation system, triggers to past trauma in encountering large crowds on buses and trains, and who tend to live in clustered communities that are not well linked to the Boston public transit grid.
The pilot project offers roundtrip rides to clinic for patients who report experiencing transportation insecurity, using Uber Health — a health-care branch of the Uber platform that enables providers to schedule and pay for rides on behalf of their patients.
After nine months, the students found their project decreases patient no-show rates, improves patient satisfaction and has led to significant cost savings. The students now are working on securing additional funding to extend the pilot to continue to provide this service to patients.
Vais is interested in health-care quality improvement, with a focus on improving access to care for underserved populations. She is working on expanding the use of Uber Health to combat transportation insecurity beyond the RWHC, through new pilot studies at BMC’s Pediatric Sickle Cell Clinic and General Pediatrics department.
Siu holds a master’s degree in global medicine management from University of Southern California and is interested in integrating his knowledge in clinical management with a career in global medicine. He has traveled to Thailand, Panama and Tijuana for various clinical projects and co-led the Global Health Equity Program elective course at BUSM last year.