Uber has announced a new business line called Uber Health that will provide a ride-hailing platform for healthcare providers. Uber is offering to take patients to their medical appointments, as long as they are operating in the area. The health care providers that will use this business will be the ones billed for the services, not the patients.
Health care providers can set up car ride appointments within a few hours or up to thirty days in advance for patients. In order to ensure anyone can use this service, Uber has stated that the patient will not be required to have the Uber app or a smartphone. The company will use text messages to coordinate the rides, and they will have the ability to utilize both mobile and landline features to communicate with patients.
A centralized dashboard will let providers in the healthcare industry be able to assist their patients with transportation that is in compliance with HIPAA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability. The health provider will put in the client’s name, number, pick up and drop off locations, and then choose one of Uber’s ride-hailing vehicle type. The client will receive a text message or voice call notifying them of the booking. The system has a management system that will keep track of all of the billing and reporting.
Uber began testing the platform last summer with over 100 healthcare providers signing up including clinics, hospitals, rehabs and physical therapy centers. The reason for starting the service is due to statistics claiming that 3.6 million Americans miss medical appointments because they lack reliable transportation.
“There are a lot of people out there who are not going to the doctor simply because they can’t physically make it there,” said Uber Health executive Jay Holley.
“If there are people who are missing their appointments because they’re using an unreliable bus service to get to and from their healthcare provider, this is a great solution for them,” Chris Weber, general manager of Uber Health, told in an interview. “The types of individuals this is valuable for really is limitless.”
“Uber’s endeavors into health care trace back to 2014, when Uber first offered on-demand flu shots in large markets across the U.S.,” he said, regarding the genesis of the focus on health within Uber. “Since then there have been similar efforts throughout the world, from diabetes and thyroid testing in India to subsidized rides for breast cancer screening in the U.S., to many more. That said, all of these efforts have been pop-ups.” This all led them to figure out a way to make a more permanent solution to reducing missed appointments.
In order to comply with HIPAA, Uber drivers will not be told or aware that they are driving someone that is using Uber Health. The drivers will have a limited amount of information such as the passengers’ name, and their pickup and drop off points.
Uber wanted to make it clear that they are not a replacement for an ambulance or for emergency situations. They will not be sent to transport people who need immediate attention. Uber hopes to help lessen the gap of Americans missing their doctor appointments, and focus on wheelchair accessibility for those who need it. Weber said, “It’s definitely something we’re focused on making a better, more reliable experience, but as of now this is really focused on reaching out to the existing driver network.” Uber is hoping to expand in more than 250 cities in the U.S. and make this new line of business successful.