Besides the health risks posed due to missed appointments, open, unused time slots costs the U.S. healthcare system $150 billion every year, and the phenomenon costs physicians an average of $200 for each missed appointment. For the 3.6 million patients across U.S. cities who miss or postpone their scheduled appointments due to transportation issues, no-show rates are as high as 30 percent. To help solve the problem, the ride-share giant, Uber, has decided to take advantage of what it sees as an opportunity and establish Uber Health.
“The dashboard allows healthcare professionals to order rides for patients going to and from the care they need,” writes Uber Health’s General Manager Chris Weber. “We are also launching an Uber Health API to enable easy integrations into existing healthcare products.”
As part of Uber Health’s beta phase, over 100 hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, senior care facilities, home care centers, and physical therapy centers are using the app. They are also exploring ways that Uber Health can accommodate their offerings.
Uber Health allows coordinators to schedule rides on behalf of patients, caregivers, and staff to take place right away or up to 30 days in advance. Accordingly, transportation for follow-up appointments can be taken care of while patients are still at the healthcare facility. Using the same dashboard, multiple rides can be scheduled and managed at the same time.
To get a ride with Uber Health, the patient is not required to either have the app installed or even to have a smartphone to begin with, since the rides are arranged through text messages. “We’re even going to be introducing the option for riders to receive a call with trip details to their mobile phone or landline instead,” Weber elaborates. “For many, their first ever Uber ride will be through Uber Health, so we’re committed to providing the necessary education tools that ensure every patient feels comfortable and at ease during their journey.”
Similar to the regular Uber app, on Uber Health, organizations can keep track of their trips and costs.
Uber Health meets the standards of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a 1996 federal law that restricts access to individuals’ private medical information. “We have been working hard to develop, implement, and customize numerous safeguards,” says Uber Health’s general manager. “We also worked with Clearwater Compliance, a leading HIPAA compliance company, to conduct comprehensive risk and compliance assessments. We are thus pleased to sign Business Associate Agreements with our healthcare partners.”
Similar to Uber’s project in the United States is Flare, a mobile app, in Nairobi, which works just like Uber, but hails ambulances and firefighters instead of ride-shares. “With so many dispersed providers and with hundreds of phone numbers to call, it is impossible to know who can get to you the fastest,” Flare’s co-founder Maria Rabinovich told progrss last year. She added that 15 percent of Kenya’s documented emergency situations end in death compared to one percent in U.S. cities.
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