Anne DiNardoAcross the country, healthcare organizations are investing in planning and design strategies that aim to bring care closer to patients.

Often, these efforts go hand in hand with goals to address social determinants of health (SDOH)—the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes—such as access to healthcare services, economic stability, housing, and education.

Transportation also falls under the SDOH umbrella.

One report from the American Hospital Association states that 3.6 million people in the U.S. do not obtain medical care due to transportation barriers. These can include lack of vehicle access, long distances to needed services, or transportation costs.

Unreliable transportation and missed appointments can lead to less continuity of care, decreased prescription fills, and more use of emergency services.

Report outlines benefits of improving transportation needs

The report “Social Determinants of Health Series: Transportation and the Role of Hospitals,” by the Health Research & Educational Trust, outlines the case for hospitals and health systems to address transportation needs. The guide notes that improving transportation benefits health outcomes, quality of life, and cost savings for patients and health systems.

While some suggestions are a step in the right direction, such as providing direct transportation services, free transit passes, or on-site bike sharing, more comprehensive solutions should be considered, too.

For example, we’ve heard examples of organizations working with local agencies on transit planning initiatives or integrating access to transportation on healthcare projects.

Hackensack Meridian Health project to address transportation access

Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) illustrates such an approach. Its newest Health & Wellness Center will be integrated into the redevelopment of New Jersey’s Metropark Station in Woodbridge, N.J. The project will also include retail, residential, office space, and dining.

In the Design Outlook column in Healthcare Design‘s May issue , Jose Lozano, HMH’s executive vice president and chief growth officer, shares the thinking behind the strategy.

“By putting a Health & Wellness Center within a transit hub, we are offering a great healthcare option for people whose main form of transportation is mass transit,” he says in the article.

Also, as a hub on Amtrak’s Northeast corridor, Metropark Station gives us quick access to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. This will serve as a powerful recruitment tool for HMH to continue to attract top talent from the Northeast.”

Win-win ideas such as these can help change the face of healthcare by having a positive impact on access and outcomes for all.

I’d love to hear what new ideas and strategies are inspiring you to deliver fresh takes to the industry’s existing problems. Drop me a line at anne.dinardo@emeraldx.com.