Can Uber, Lyft really help patients make more doctor’s appointments?
Friday, March 02, 2018
Uber has a new plan to help Americans who need rides to their medical appointments. On March 1, the ride-sharing company launched Uber Health, a new service that partners with healthcare providers to set up rides for patients to and from the doctor's office.
Uber hopes to target the 3.6 million Americans who miss medical appointments each year due to lack of reliable transportation. That costs the U.S. medical system $150 billion a year, with no-show rates as high as 30 percent, according to healthcare IT services company SCI Solutions.
"There are a lot of people out there who are not going to the doctor simply because they can't physically make it there," Uber Health executive Jay Holley told The New York Post.
Rival Lyft is also offering a similar service. The company recently announced a partnership with Hitch Health to provide rides to healthcare appointments across the U.S.
Over the last few years, Lyft has also partnered with several healthcare organizations including Cigna, Ascension and American Medical Response to get patients to and from appointments.
As part of Uber's new service, healthcare providers schedule patients' rides, which can be done up to 30 days in advance or within a few hours. Patients don't need the app or even a smartphone to access the service, according to Uber.
This is part of Uber's aim to make the service available to everyone — whether they have a smartphone or no phone at all. Riders without the app can be alerted through text message, or in some cases, a call on their landline or a paper printout.
"We've moved to a paper-based communication strategy, where we have forms we can provide for our customers," Holley told The Washington Post. "Circle the make, model, license plate number [of the ride], and help people in the most analog possible way for a tech company."
Uber bills healthcare providers for the rides — not patients. Whether they pass the bill on to patients is up to individual providers, though most of the ones it has worked with so far pay for the rides out of their operating budget, according to Uber.
But will any of this work to decrease medical appointment no-shows? A study of 786 Medicaid patients published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine found that offering Lyft rides to primary care doctors did not decrease the rate of missed appointments.
"We really thought ride shares would be superconvenient. We were pretty surprised, actually, it did not work out," Dr. Krisda H. Chaiyachati, one of the study's researchers, told The Washington Post. "I think we [as providers] tend to apply our choices of how we live our lives, and we kind of impose it on our patients' lives."
Chaiyachati said the study points to clues that people with more critical appointments, such as oncology patients, may benefit most from the service.
Uber began testing the service in beta last summer. More than 100 healthcare provider have signed up, including hospitals, rehab centers, senior care facilities and physical therapy centers.
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