Uber now wants to take you to and from your doctor appointments. The ride-hailing company has announced the launch of its Uber Health platform, which allows healthcare providers to schedule rides for patients who lack reliable transportation. Uber Health has been in testing since July with around 100 physicians and hospitals.
The Uber rides are meant to replace taxis and medical shuttles, but not ambulances. Doctors and hospitals use a desktop interface to enter patient information and billing code details. Rides can be scheduled in advance and multiple rides can be ordered at the same time. Patients receive either a text message with the driver’s information and ETA or be given a paper printout of those details by staff members if they do not have a text-capable phone.
Providers often pay for the Uber rides out of their own money. Patients on Medicaid have transportation benefits that can be billed for the service. Medical professionals wanting to bill patients for the ride have to develop their own way to charge them.
The move could be a big help to older folks and people with chronic issues. However, there may be an issue with transporting patients that rely on the use of wheelchairs. The ride hailing company does offer the option of ordering Wheelchair Accessible Vans in London, Toronto, Austin, and Chicago. However, the option is still in testing and there is no indications for when the option may be rolled out to more areas.
Disability Rights Advocates recently filed a class action lawsuit against the ride-sharing service over its lack of transportation for those in wheelchairs. Melissa Riess, staff attorney at the advocacy group, says Uber has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
Missed appointments cost healthcare providers in the U.S. about $150 billion a year and no-show rates can be as high as 30 percent for some providers. But a recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine last month questions whether providing ride-sharing services are the solution. The study of nearly 800 Medicaid patients in West Philadelphia found that offering free Lyft rides to and from primary care appointments had little effect on the number of missed appointments when compared to a group of people not offered the service.
Gyre Renwick, a vice president of Lyft Business, said, “The study results really contradicted what we’ve seen with other partners, again and again.” Lyft has also been working with healthcare providers over the past few years. The company has been targeting elderly and poor patients in areas underserved by public transportation and people for whom missing an appointment could have major health repercussions for its pilot program.