What Is Uber Health?: Uber Launches Ride Hailing Service For Healthcare Providers

An Uber waits for a client in New York City. The company is partnering with health care organizations to provide patients with reliable transportation

According to JAMA Internal Medicine, about 3.6 million Americans miss health care appointments every year because of issues with transportation.

San Francisco-based Uber, a global ride-sharing company, has launched Uber Health, a service that enables health care providers to hail on-demand and scheduled rides for patients. Last July, the nonprofit organization Disability Rights Advocate sued Uber for discrimination in NY state, alleging that UberWAV provides inconsistent access to wheelchair-friendly vehicles and prolonged wait times. Patients' personal Uber accounts are also not connected to the ride hailed by the health care provider, according to Holley. These organizations include home care centers, physical therapy centers, hospitals, rehab facilities and more. Drivers will still use the Uber smartphone app to pick up these passengers.

Uber is driving deeper into health care by offering to take patients in every USA market where it operates to their next medical appointment.

How many wide-eyed entrepreneurs have compared their health-tech start-up to Uber?

"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", said Chris Weber, general manager of Uber Health, in a statement announcing the service.

"I'd say there are two major things driving Uber's interest", Naveen Rao, health innovation analyst and founder of Patchwise Labs told Healthcare Dive. The company is positioning itself as a cheaper and more reliable option than most non-emergency medical transportation. Rival Lyft also has been working with healthcare providers over the past few years.

In this June 11, 2014 file photo, a demonstrator carries a mock coffin with a message reading "They want to kill us - Uber" during a 24 hour taxi strike and protest in Madrid, Spain against unregulated competition from private companies, in particular, Uber.

Then, of course, there are the patients who never enter an ambulance at all-and, consequently, don't get to the doctor's office or hospital and don't receive care. While Uber generally collects data about its users, its Uber Health service will require it be much more careful about rider information.

Uber Health takes this on by allowing medical facilities to book travel on a patient's behalf.

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