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Uber Health Wants to Drive You to the Hospital

3.6 million Americans a year miss medical appointments because they lack transportation.

Alexey Novikov | Dreamstime.comAlexey Novikov | Dreamstime.com

Shortly after Uber was hit with a lawsuit for how it treats customers in wheelchairs, the company launched Uber Health, a service allowing health care providers to assign rides to shuttle patients even if the riders don't have the Uber app.

Around 3.6 million Americans a year miss medical appointments because they lack transportation. "If there are people who are missing their appointments because they're using an unreliable bus service to get to and from their healthcare provider, this is a great solution for them," Uber Health's Chris Weber tells The Verge.

Uber Health can be installed into current hospital software systems, allowing the institutions to schedule rides in advance and to send notices directly to patients' cell phones or landlines.

While this new technology offers an innovative solution to a transportation problem, there are reasonable concerns about how the company will handle private citizens' medical data. In 2016, 57 million Uber customer accounts were breached, exposing people's names, emails, and phone numbers. A year later, Uber admitted to hiring hackers to cover up the breach. Pennsylvania is suing Uber over this cover-up, and other states may follow.

According to Jay Holley, the head of partnerships at Uber Health, the data surrounding the Uber Health service is separate from the rest of Uber's data and is only accessible to select company employees. While Uber Health has met HIPAA standards—rules that give private persons sole control of their health information—those still may not present the level of privacy some want.

"Even if a platform is HIPAA-compliant, providers risk potential imposition of stiff penalties for data breaches, and business associate agreements should be implemented between providers and ride-sharing companies," two attorneys note in an article published by the American Health Lawyers Association.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has already partnered with Lyft to offer free rides to insurance clients. A Kansas University study even suggests that many people are using ride-sharing services in lieu of ambulances. Meanwhile, Reason recently covered a woman who was fined for providing a ride service for patients.

It's clear there is a need for better hospital transportation for those who struggle with obtaining a ride, be it because of their age, health status, or income. The federal government's only current attempt to solve the problem—Medicaid's non-emergency medical transportation—costs $3 billion annually and isn't available to everyone. Uber Health offers another approach to the problem.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    What private information is actually at risk here? Are hospitals going to provide Uber drivers with their passengers; charts?

  • BYODB||


    While Uber Health has met HIPAA standards—rules that give private persons sole control of their health information—those still may not present the level of privacy some want.


    None whatsoever, people are clutching pearls. I deal with HIPPA and there's essentially zero concern here unless the provider itself does something retarded which shouldn't and wouldn't be on Uber or Lyft. Unsurprisingly, the only interested party that could potentially breach HIPPA is...the hospital that uses the Uber of Lyft app. and only if they did something monumentally stupid and included health information in their request for a shuttle bus. This seems like a concern in search of a problem.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen||

    If you can't spell HIPAA correctly then your knowledge of it is probably suspect.

  • BYODB||

    Fair enough, but I've had ten years plus of training in dealing with their policies regarding health records and I can't imagine how protected health information would be forwarded to essentially a cab company. There is zero reason to attach any health information to a request for a ride ever, on that I'm sure you'd agree.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Scenarios aren't too hard to find. Most hospitals don't let you take taxis after anesthesia, they might need to include some of that info in the ride request. I assume Uber would want to be able to accommodate those situations, maybe with a ride along nurse/orderly to assist in getting the patient into their house.

  • Rhywun||

    A year later, Uber admitted to hiring hackers to cover up the breach.

    I would not associate with Uber if you paid me. We make fun of Google's "don't do evil" silliness; well this is actual evil.

  • BYODB||

    Finally, Uber can get their hands on some of that sweet, sweet Medicaid cash.


    /semi-sarc

  • BYODB||


    Blue Cross Blue Shield has already partnered with Lyft to offer free rides to insurance clients.

    I don't think Kayla knows what 'free' means in this context since, ultimately, the costs of those clients Lyft rides are passed on to both themselves and everyone else.

    Where do they keep finding these writers?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    A few walked out of school today...

  • Red Tony||

  • CE||

    If it's minor stuff, why not just let the Uber driver treat people and save the trip? Probably a lot of doctors will be moonlighting for extra cash once the Dems pass nationalized health care.

  • Robert||

    My friend Alley last week got an Uber to get her home in a snowstorm after her surgery.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    I was expecting a punchline with that.

  • LarryWilson||

    Who are these people who are so disabled that they can ride in a car to and from a medical appointment, but they can't figure out any of the many ways to get there and back?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Grandpa Joe, with 20/200 vision and a touch of Alzheimer's?

  • LarryWilson||

    And....how does Uber fix that scenario?

    Somehow he's so disabled he can't phone a friend or family member, but he manages to be at the right place at the right time to catch an Uber arranged by someone else?

    Alrighty then.

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