Uber, Lyft Launch Efforts to Eliminate Transportation Barriers to Healthcare

Lyft expands its footprint in health care

The new partnership is part of a growing effort from Lyft - and its ride-hailing competitor Uber - to partner with health care organizations to arrange rides for patients who need assistance getting to doctor's appointments.

Ride sharing companies are plunging into the healthcare business, seeing a big opportunity in ferrying the millions of people who miss medical appointments every year.

Besides the health risks posed due to missed appointments, open, unused time slots costs the USA healthcare system $150 billion every year, and the phenomenon costs physicians an average of $200 for each missed appointment. According to Lyft, the company's failure rate has dropped 20 percent since partnering with Lyft - meaning more patients are making their scheduled appointments.

Uber has partnered with more than 100 healthcare organizations in the U.S.to launch the service, including hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, senior care facilities, home care centers and physical therapy centers. Lyft said it would like to halve this statistic by 2020, and if Uber and Lyft maintain aligned goals, this will likely be an achievable benchmark.

Both Uber and Lyft have been targeting no-show patients for some time, but a recent JAMA study called into question the efficacy of offering free rides to patients when only about a quarter of patients took advantage of the service. Coordinators can schedule rides on behalf of patients, caregivers and staff to take place immediately, within a few hours, or up to 30 days in advance.

Last week, Uber introduced Uber Health, a service that allows hospitals, doctor's offices, and other health systems to order an Uber for their patients.

The company stressed that Uber Health complies with HIPAA patient privacy laws. The platform pushes a text alert to passengers about the scheduled ride, and the business provider typically covers the cost.

Uber said 3.6 million people miss or delay appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation.

'My health crisis was a lot to manage, ' a patient from San Diego said, according to Uber.

Uber Health's data is "cordoned off" from Uber's other data and only a select number of employees are given access to it, he said.

Not having someone show up is costly for the physician and costly for patients because care is not delivered.

Additionally, if a patient experiences some kind of medical emergency in an Uber, the company says the driver is encouraged to call 911.

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