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Doctors can now call Uber for patients, ditching taxi vouchers

Seniors

The ride-hailing company Thursday announced the launch of Uber Health, a desktop platform for healthcare providers that allows doctors to provide rides for patients who might otherwise miss their appointments because they can’t get to them.

Uber Health has been in testing since July with around 100 physicians and hospitals. Rival Lyft also has been working with healthcare providers over the past few years. Both tech startups have been looking for ways to grow their business with companies.

The benefits to doctors and hospitals of using ride-hailing apps — which replace taxis and medical shuttles, but not ambulances  — include on-demand scheduling, destination tracking, and lower costs, said one doctor who had tried Uber’s service.

Nationally, missed appointments cost healthcare providers $150 billion a year, with no-show rates as high as 30%, according to SCI Solutions, which provides IT services to the healthcare industry.

“In the past, we used taxis, but you had to hand out a voucher in person, you had no idea where the person might be going and it cost 20% to 40% more,” says Chris Needham, director of Member Health and Wellness at Renown Health, which serves urban and rural patients in northern Nevada and has been testing Uber Health since October.

Needham says hospital staff assesses which patients are at risk of missing critical appointments and provides them with pick-up and drop-off rides at the hospital’s expense.

Another benefit of the service is helping healthcare providers meet patient care goals that can factor into how a facility scores with regulators.

Critically, Uber says it’s worked with Clearwater Compliance to ensure Uber Health is compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standards.

More than 100 healthcare organizations have been using Uber Health as part of its beta program, including Blood Centers of the Pacific, Georgetown Home Care, LifeBridge Health, and MedStar Health. The dashboard and API are now available publicly.