As an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Obi Ugwonali was puzzled by the number of patients who didn’t show up for their operations. Given the cost of staffing nurses, assistants and anesthesiologists, appointment cancellations were a strain financially on his practice. But why weren’t his patients showing up? Ugwonali said it’s because they simply couldn’t get to the surgical center.
Patients missing appointments due to transportation issues aren’t uncommon. In fact, 80 percent of the U.S. population lacks access to adequate healthcare. In these mostly rural areas, the nearest hospital or medical facility is too far away, creating what’s called healthcare deserts. Similarly, 40 percent of the U.S. lives in pharmacy deserts, where most residents have to drive more than 15 minutes to pick up medication.
That’s why Ugwonali and Dana Weeks founded MedTrans Go, a marketplace for connecting medical facilities with transportation, language interpretation, telehealth and medication delivery providers. The company’s mission is to solve the problem of medical appointment cancellations by addressing the intersectional barriers to care patients face. The Atlanta-based startup just raised $1.5 million to expand its services to more cities and expand its customer base.
MedTrans Go currently services 10 states with its customer base primarily based in the Southeastern U.S. region. Its latest funding round was led by Morgan Stanley.
The MedTrans Go platform allows users to browse service providers based on location, language, access needs and more. Anyone coordinating care on behalf of patients can input information about their request and be given a list of providers. All providers are vetted by MedTrans Go through a 10-point certification process to verify that providers have certain qualifications such as HIPAA compliance and CPR certification.
When it comes to transportation, Weeks says nowhere is too far, with some rides being as long as 200 miles roundtrip. Trips like those are usually in rural, low-income areas where patients may not have otherwise had access to the healthcare they needed.
“Rural communities are facing an increased reduction in the number of medical facilities near them. [They] no longer have medical facilities just down the block,” Weeks, who serves as the CEO of MedTrans, told Built In.
While the company is best known for medical transportation, that’s not the only hurdle keeping patients from making their appointments. Weeks says a lack of language interpreters also makes it difficult for patients to make and keep appointments as well as communicate their needs when they get to the doctor’s office.
“Even if a medical facility were to increase the number of Spanish speaking or Russian speaking staff, what happens when you have a need for a Tagalog interpreter or an ASL interpreter,” Weeks told Built In. “Our solution gives medical facilities the flexibility to offer interpreters in over 120 languages.”
MedTrans Go even offers access to interpreters in small segments, like the 15 minutes it might take to schedule an appointment. This makes it a cost-effective solution for patients who might otherwise miss appointments due to language barriers.
The company is looking to expand its customer base to other regions. Outside of its main hub in the Southeast, MedTrans Go has already been operating in Colorado for over a year, contracting with UC Health in Colorado Springs to offer transportation services to chemotherapy patients. The company is also working on an upcoming pilot program in CO with Prime Health and plans to use its new funding for expanding further to other states.
Expanding its customer base also means bringing on new talent. Currently, MedTrans Go is hiring positions in sales, operations and customer success. Weeks told Built In the company also has plans to hire more developers to add further customizations to its platform.