A new partnership with Lyft that increases access for senior citizens to high-quality care at Keck Medicine of USC facilities is expected to launch by the end of the year.

The announcement was made Sept. 22 at the 11th Annual Global Body Computing Conference, an event at USC’s University Park Campus that attracts thought leaders from across the globe, offering perspectives and insights on the convergence of health and technology.

Under the pilot program, senior citizens, many of whom are considered vulnerable and at-risk patients, will have access to cost-free rides to medical appointments as well as social and other activities. The program will study whether these rides can also reduce isolation and help older adults be healthier.

“Seniors often deal with issues like isolation and loneliness,” said Jim Murphy, MBA, vice president, innovation, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “In addition to helping them stay socially connected, we hope this program will help at-risk seniors keep their medical appointments and allow them to close any gaps in their health care.”

Developed by the AARP Foundation, UnitedHealthcare, the USC Center for Body Computing and Lyft, the program links seniors with on-demand ride services, allowing patients older than 60 who have missed at least two doctors’ appointments within the last 12 months and who have an upcoming appointment in the next three months, to have access to cost-free rides from Lyft.

“Our mission is the same today as it was when we started: to create a virtual, global health care system that is continuous, on-demand, easily accessible and deeply personal,” said Leslie Saxon, MD, professor of medicine (clinical scholar) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and founder and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing. “Disruption of traditional models of care or any industry always takes longer than you think, but change happens fast.”

Saxon referenced the AARP Foundation, UnitedHealthcare and Lyft pilot program as an example of a partnership that disrupts traditional health care to empower patients and provide a service that complements their medical care.

Among the topics discussed at the conference were body-worn sensors that provide real-time readings, cybersecurity initiatives and athlete health.

Along with Saxon, conference participants included Bakul Patel, MS, MBA, associate director for digital health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Gene Sykes, MBA, CEO of the LA2028 Olympic bid; and Lisa Marsh Ryerson, MS, president, AARP Foundation. Panels and Q&A sessions featured entrepreneurs from digital health start-ups, venture capitalists, corporate executives, nonprofit and government officials, along with Keck Medicine physicians and innovators from across the university.

Among the featured panels was a discussion on how diabetes can be fought with digital sensors, social networks and software.

Robert Ford, MBA, executive vice president of medical devices for Abbott, discussed new wearable technology that allows users to collect real-time data on glucose levels and other diagnostics, allowing them to monitor and optimize their health in real time.

Ford said the technology has made him more aware of how the foods he eats impacts his health.

“We’re just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible with wearable technology,” Ford said. “There is the ability to ultimately change behavior, and giving people information that allows them to take action toward a healthy life.”

— Douglas Morino