Uber has recently added a new service to its growing list of rideshare lines by launching its new Uber Health service. This new ride-hailing platform is made available specifically to healthcare providers, allowing clinics, hospitals, and rehab centers to easily secure rides for their patients and clients. Perhaps the best part of this is the simplification of requesting rides; users don’t even need the Uber app. According to TechCrunch, instead of operating through an app, Uber Health will send its passengers’ ride information through an SMS text message. The company also plans to introduce the option for passengers to receive a call with trip details to their landline instead. This will make it easier for elderly patients and others without smartphones to get a ride. Drivers will still use the Uber smartphone app to pick up these passengers.
“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. He added that the service also represents a business opportunity for Uber by connecting the company with a lot of first-time users. Uber will bill care providers who sign up for the service on a monthly basis based on their usage. Holley said some might pass the cost on to their customers, but most of the providers it has worked with so far pay for the rides out of their operating budget.
Building on Previous Models
The Uber Health service is similar to UberCENTRAL, the company’s ride-booking service aimed at business customers who want to provide rides for their clientele, but it’s also tailored for the healthcare industry. Uber Health’s creation was rooted in some alarming statistics about patient care and healthcare client absentee rates. Uber Health General Manager Chris Weber explained that some 3.5 million Americans miss medical appointments owing to a lack of available, reliable transportation. Plus, he noted that nearly a third of patients fail to show up to medical appointments every year in total. “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.”
According to NPR Business, to meet the medical privacy standards outlined in the federal HIPAA law, drivers won’t know which of their passengers are using Uber Health. Like a typical Uber ride, only a passenger’s name, pickup and drop-off addresses will be given to the driver. Uber drivers won’t be able to opt into the health service the same way that they opt into Uber Eats, a food delivery service.
Importance and Purpose
Uber’s Weber said that because health care providers will use their best discretion in scheduling the rides, they wouldn’t call Ubers for people in need of urgent medical attention. “It’s not a replacement for ambulances,” he said, but a reliable means of transportation to non-urgent medical services that he hopes will curb missed appointments.
Uber began testing the service last summer. Nearly a hundred healthcare organizations in the U.S. have already used Uber Health’s pilot program. The new transportation service is still in the incipient stage but will be rolled out to organizations gradually. This service may be a boon to many patients who are elderly or low-income or otherwise unable to secure transportation to get to a medical appointment.
Impact on Market
Competitive strategy led Lyft to launch its new partnership with Hitch Health – a software technology company that stores electronic health records. The concept is similar to Uber’s. The underlying difference is that Lyft’s service prioritizes low-income, uninsured and vulnerable patients, who may have a harder time acquiring transportation. For this service, and similar to Uber patients don’t need a smartphone or a payment card. In Lyft’s case, riders get a text message offering a pickup and this can be for any sort of mobile device. Although the idea of ridesharing companiespartnering with healthcare organizations may not be a new one, it is a plus for consumers and is beneficial in that it can lead to improved health care for those who need it most.