Uber Lets Doctors Call Rides for Their Patients

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Uber launched a new service Thursday created to ferry patients to and from doctors' appointments.

Uber Health will partner with health care providers, who will be able to schedule rides for patients using a special digital platform. If successful, Uber Health could potentially put Uber back on the map after the company's recent fall from popularity.

Public transportation is notorious for not running on schedule and that's a problem when it comes to doctor visits.

More than 100 health care 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.

Weber said Uber Health is the company's biggest health care initiative so far. The patient need not have the Uber app or even a working smartphone: "The dashboard comes with a printable sheet allowing a doctor to circle the incoming Uber's auto color and write down the license plate". It's unclear whether or not healthcare organizations will choose to pass some of these costs on to their patients, however.

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Doctors and hosptials using the service are presented with a desktop interface that asks for patient information and as well as billing code details (medical professionals wanting to bill patients for the Uber ride would have to find a way to charge them).

Patients aren't on the hook for the cost of the ride, as Uber bills the health care provider at the end of each month. The company says that more than 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments annually due to a lack of reliable transportation with no-show rates being as high as 30 percent across the country. It has previously delivered flu shots, driven people to get tested for diabetes and for breast cancer screenings, and provided haze masks in Singapore.

Health care providers can set up their own accounts online through Uber's new dashboard, which the company has hailed as having HIPAA in mind.

"Transportation barriers are the greatest for vulnerable populations", Chris Weber, the general manager of Uber Health, told NPR. "In San Francisco, 80% of the time, Uber WAV service is unavailable", Disability Rights Advocates wrote in a Monday statement about filing the suit in Alameda County Superior Court. CareMore Health System found in a pilot study in 2016 that using Lyft was cheaper than other forms of transportation and patients spent less time waiting for a ride.