MAR 03, 2018 1:50 PM PST

Uber Health Aims to Get More Patients to Appointments

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

On March 1, 2018, the ride-hailing company Uber announced the public launch of its Uber Health initiative. This program seeks to supply an easily-accessible system of ride appointments that can be used by patients, doctors and staff in a variety of health care settings. Uber Health is already running in beta and seeks to fill an important role helping patients get to their non-urgent medical appointments.

Uber driver and Uber Health images, credit: Uber

Chris Weber, general manager for Uber Health, said that “while transportation barriers are common across the general population, these barriers are greatest for vulnerable populations, including patients with the highest burden of chronic disease.” More than 3 million Americans miss appointments because of transportation difficulties every year. Uber stated in a press release that unattended appointment rates are as high as 30 percent in the U.S., citing stats from SCI Solutions. More than 100 health care organizations are already using Uber Health.

How Does Uber Health Work?

Health care coordinators can schedule rides for patients with Uber Health for immediate fulfillment or up to 30 days in advance. Multiple rides can be scheduled in a single dashboard session. According to Uber, the ride billing and management functions of the interface are simple and user-friendly. It is also launching an API (application programming interface) so that the new app can be integrated with preexisting medical information systems.

One of Uber Health’s most notable and promoted features is that it is designed to be accessible to patients without smartphones. The standard method of securing and sending the details of a ride with a passenger will be done through text message. Another upcoming option will be for patients to receive a call on their cellphone or even on a landline regarding the specs of their trip. These methods of communication seek to erase the barrier to Uber use that some people without smartphone app access have faced. Uber drivers will still rely on the app to handle their workload.

Possible Complications to the Program

HIPAA Compliance presented a potential issue for Uber, but the company said on its site that it has been “working hard to develop, implement and customize numerous safeguards.” Uber consulted with a HIPAA compliance consulting company called Clearwater Compliance during this process. One aspect of its HIPAA-compliant services will be that the drivers will not know which riders are specifically using Uber Health. They will simply receive a name, location and destination, as in a typical Uber service.

Uber driver Peter Whorley told NPR in March that he already sometimes picks up people who need extra space or help due to medical conditions. “I like to help people if they need extra assistance; I personally don't have that problem. But some people might be squeamish and not want to,” he said. He also thinks it is important in the Uber system for both drivers and riders to have access to the smartphone app for essential location-tracking and communication purposes.

Pete Celano, director of Consumer Health Initiatives at MedStar Health, which has already started using this new appointment transportation solution, is satisfied with the service thus far. “Uber has helped us drastically reduce appointment cancellations. It’s great to be able to quickly request a ride with so that in-need patients can make an appointment they’d otherwise miss,” he told Uber.

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 10, 2020
Technology
Why the Law Needs Open Access Data?
JUL 10, 2020
Why the Law Needs Open Access Data?
Researchers at Northwestern University believe that a fair justice system needs open access data that is not hidden behi ...
JUL 22, 2020
Technology
Software Capabilities for Self-Driving Cars
JUL 22, 2020
Software Capabilities for Self-Driving Cars
Self-driving (autonomous) cars have already hit the road. The software capability of these cars, especially those that r ...
JUL 31, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Advancing Nuclear Fusion by Taming the "Chirping" Plasma
JUL 31, 2020
Advancing Nuclear Fusion by Taming the "Chirping" Plasma
2020 turns out to a year of breakthrough for nuclear fusion. The world's largest fusion project ITER (International ...
AUG 17, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Smartphone Cameras Detect Signs of Diabetes
AUG 17, 2020
Smartphone Cameras Detect Signs of Diabetes
In the future, detecting the early signs of diabetes could be as simple as picking up your smartphone. A new study, rece ...
AUG 21, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MIT Scientists Found the Causes Behind Dull Blades
AUG 21, 2020
MIT Scientists Found the Causes Behind Dull Blades
The reason why we replace our shaving blades so often is because no matter how sharp they start as they eventually get d ...
OCT 01, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Presenting the World's Smallest Ultrasound Detector
OCT 01, 2020
Presenting the World's Smallest Ultrasound Detector
It’s smaller than a human cell, but the diminutive size of the newly-developed ultrasound detector is by no means ...
Loading Comments...