Uber to begin offering rides to medical appointments

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

Called Uber Health, it will allow doctors and health services to arrange rides for patients; be it for quick checkups or for followup appointments. The entire process is conducted via text message, so there is no need to have a smartphone advanced enough to run the Uber app. Hospitals, doctors and other providers could be eager to pay for those rides if it means more on-time appointments and fewer no-shows - which translates into more revenue in their pockets.

The Uber Health value proposition is similar to that of UberCENTRAL, the company's ride-booking service aimed at business customers who want to provide rides for their clientele, but it's also tailored for the healthcare industry with HIPAA standards compliance, as well as the ability to use the service on the client-side from even just a landline.

Have a doctor's appointment on your calendar but no way to get there? We are also launching an Uber Health API to enable easy integrations into existing healthcare products.

It's been previously reported that some people often use Uber as a replacement for calling an ambulance, perhaps because they're cheaper than emergency transport. Also, unlike the regular Uber app, it also allows them to have multiple rides running concurrently. The clinic can then print out the details for the patient to take with them.

Since the facilities are willing to shell out their own dollars, then there must be a worthwhile benefit for them, the biggest one being a reduction in the amount of missed appointments, which costs the US healthcare system more than $150 billion a year thanks to 3.6 million Americans who miss their schedules appointments.

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If the passenger does not have a mobile phone, Uber said the healthcare company or caregiver can coordinate on their behalf. As of now Uber Health is only available in the U.S., but it may very well expand to other countries and regions in the coming months.

While Uber Health seems like a positive service in several aspects, privacy experts were quick to point out that Uber's past data breaches might present some concerns in the near term.

Uber said more than 100 healthcare organization in the United States have been using Uber Health in a beta program and that the full service goes live on Thursday.

If a lack of reliable transportation has prevented you or a family member from getting the medical attention you need, Uber may have a solution. Keeping our partners and their patients in mind, we're looking forward to seeing what's possible when transportation is no longer a barrier to care.

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