Lyft, an app that lets you hail a ride with a smartphone, is expanding into a surprising new demographic: senior citizens without smartphones.
The company is partnering with National MedTrans Network in New York City to help senior citizens get to non-emergency medical appointments on time. In a blog post, Lyft announced that it is already fulfilling 2,500 requests for rides per week via its medical partners. The partnership kicked off in November of 2014.
Older Americans who don't have access to a smartphone (just a quarter of adults ages 65 and older own them, according to a Pew Research study) can still use Lyft's service. The company's initial set of partners, which includes the National MedTrans Network, are now able to use a third-party website to request a ride for a passenger through Lyft.
Lyft says it is considering adding wheelchair-accessible cars in the future as it gains more experience in the health care space.
Billy McKee, president of National MedTrans Network, said in a statement that the partnership with Lyft will help reduce costs and cut down on fraud. In 2015, Medicare paid more than $50 million in potentially fraudulent bills from ambulance companies for rides for seniors. In some cases, a recent report from government investigators found that Medicare paid for rides that did not even occur. Technology that incorporates GPS-tracking might be able to help.
"Lyft will help by providing real-time reporting," said Lyft's director of enterprise partnerships Amit Patel. "There will be no ambiguity as to whether a ride was completed or not."
McKee said the goal is to shift all of its 25,000 rides per week over to Lyft.
Lyft's push into medical services comes just months after rival app Uber announced that it would deliver vaccines during the flu season.
This story has been updated.