Editor’s Note: In the latest edition of her Tech Tonics podcast series, Manatt Health’s Lisa Suennen speaks with Megan Callahan, Head of Healthcare for Lyft. Megan shares her healthcare career journey—as well as the insights she gained into the healthcare system from the patient’s perspective after she was diagnosed with stage 3b breast cancer. Among the critical lessons she learned from her personal experience was that there is no more real access issue than people having the transportation to be able to get to their care—a lesson she puts into action every day in her leadership role at Lyft. Below we capture some highlights from Megan’s interview. To listen to the full podcast free, click .
Growing up in a family of healthcare professionals, Megan Callahan always believed she was supposed to go into healthcare—and she has spent her career and life immersed in the field in more ways than she ever expected, as both an executive and a patient. What she didn’t anticipate was that she would be putting her healthcare skills and experiences to work at a ride-sharing company, guiding its navigation of the healthcare highway.
Veering off her original plan to become a physician, Megan got her master’s in public health and then turned her focus to epidemiology, looking at the underserved populations devastated by cancer in the uranium strip mining town of Pueblo, Colorado. Seeing that her ability to make a meaningful impact was limited, she headed down a different path—first at large firms like Anderson and HealthNet and later moving from startup to startup. Along the way, she learned some important lessons about entrepreneurship—but also some tough ones about trust, governance and the pitfalls of poor leadership.
Finally, Megan joined McKesson, working in its health solutions business in strategy and mergers and acquisitions. But in 2014, she was diagnosed with stage 3b breast cancer and got a front-row seat to how our healthcare system really works for patients.
What Did She Learn From Her Experience?
Megan’s journey as a patient showed her how hard the system makes it. She was surprised at how disjointed the patient experience was—and how little information was shared among providers. She found herself filling out the same forms with the same information on the same wooden clipboards over and over again at every doctor she visited. She also was told she had to pick up test results herself to bring them to the next doctor, with no way to share the findings electronically among physicians’ offices. Mostly, after a lifetime in healthcare, she learned there was still a lot to be done to improve the system for patients.
In addition, with two small children at home and no family geographically close, she realized the challenge patients face just in getting to and from doctors’ visits. She didn’t know it at the time, but that was a realization that would shape her future professional life.
A Happy Ending—and the Next Steps in Her Career
Fortunately, Megan’s story ended well. McKesson was especially supportive and brought Megan back after her recovery to design the strategy that led to the formation of Change Healthcare, focused on healthcare information technology solutions. In effect, this was a return to her startup days, albeit one that was built on transferring $3 billion of health IT assets from a large company and merging them into a small one. Megan stayed through the formation of the company, but left in 2018 looking for a new adventure. Change Healthcare went public in 2019.
Megan’s Role at Lyft
Lyft called Megan while she was taking a sabbatical. The company could not have known that Megan’s own cancer experience painfully highlighted the importance of transportation support in healthcare. Megan jumped at the opportunity to combine her own experiences as a patient with her commitment to serving those in need.
Including transportation as part of the healthcare system is not a new concept. Medicaid, for example, has offered transportation as a benefit since its inception more than 50 years ago. The healthcare transportation ecosystem, however, was rife with problems. It was highly inefficient, dominated by small, local companies still operating with paper and pen—and requiring several days’ notice to schedule a ride. The only other option for patients was to depend on public transportation.
Lyft offered a solution that was a significant improvement over the status quo. It offered easy access, direct routes and cost savings as high as 30% over small, local transportation providers. In addition, Lyft could arrive within minutes, greatly increasing convenience and customer satisfaction.
Benefits for All Stakeholders
Lyft’s healthcare service operates differently than its app-driven business that consumers use. It is a B2B platform, with a sponsoring organization or professional (such as a nurse) calling for the ride on behalf of the patient. Its model brings benefits to all the healthcare stakeholders:
- The improved patient experience helps payers that cover transportation attract and retain members.
- The easy availability of patient transportation protects providers against the millions of dollars lost each year due to missed appointments.
- The accessible rides fill an acute need, particularly among seniors. Although more research is needed to quantify outcomes, one early study showed that just getting people to their physicals can have a significant effect on health, with undiagnosed diabetes found in 10% of those who were able to get to their checkups.
The Healthcare Voice in a Non-Healthcare Company
Moving from traditional healthcare players to Lyft has been characterized by an interesting revelation for Megan. She has found that being the healthcare voice in a non-healthcare company forces one to leave the jargon behind and frees one to think creatively in ways that traditional organizations sometimes forget to do.