Uber is delving more deeply into the provider ride business, announcing on Thursday a new app and text messaging service to get patients to and from doctor's appointments and the hospital.
A dashboard app allows healthcare professionals to order rides for patients going to and from the care they need, according to Uber Health General Manager Chris Weber.
An Uber Health API allows for integration into existing healthcare products, for transportation to be scheduled for follow-up appointments while still at the healthcare facility. Multiple rides can be scheduled and managed at the same time from a single dashboard, Weber said.
Patients without a smartphone can still use Uber Health through text messaging, or opt to receive a call with trip details to their mobile phone or landline instead, he said.
Over 100 healthcare organizations in the U.S, including hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, senior care facilities, home care centers, and physical therapy centers have started using Uber Health in a beta test of the new system.
Patients and providers may schedule a ride within a few hours, or up to 30 days in advance.
"For many, their first ever Uber ride will be through Uber Health, so we're committed to providing the necessary education tools that ensure every patient feels comfortable and at ease during their journey," Weber said.
The announcement did not provide detailed information on billing but said organizations can easily keep track of what they're spending on rides and view monthly billing statements, as well as appointments, and scheduling.
To meet HIPAA standards, Uber has been working hard to implement numerous safeguards. It is working with Clearwater Compliance, a leading HIPAA compliance company, to conduct comprehensive risk and compliance assessments.
Providers sign Business Associate Agreements with Uber.
Providers taking part in the beta program include Adams Clinical, Blood Centers of the Pacific, Georgetown Home Care, LifeBridge Health, MedStar Health, Manhattan Women's Health, NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center, Pro Staff Physical Therapy, ProActive Work Health Services, Project Open Hand, Renown Health, Thundermist Health Center and Yale New Haven Health.
Healthcare technology companies such as Bracket Global and Collective Health are also exploring ways to work with Uber Health, Weber said.
Uber competitor Lyft has also been partnering with healthcare facilities for patient transportation.
Every year, 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation and no-show rates are as high as 30 percent nationwide, according to Uber. Transportation barriers are greatest for vulnerable populations, including patients with the highest burden of chronic disease, according to Weber.
But a recent study released in February from Penn Medicine researchers published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that offering a free Lyft ride to Medicaid patients for an upcoming medical appointment did not reduce the rate of missed appointments.
The study included nearly 800 West Philadelphians who were patients with Medicaid at one of two Penn Medicine primary care practices. It found that the missed appointment rate for those offered a free Lyft ride and those not offered a ride was virtually the same: 36.5 percent and 36.7 percent, respectively.