On March 1, Uber announced the launch of Uber Health, a platform that allows healthcare organizations, such as hospitals, clinics, physical therapy centers, and senior care facilities, to schedule transportation for patients to and from the location where they will receive medical care.
The peer-to-peer ridesharing giant will leverage its preexisting network of drivers to provide rides for patients. According to the Community Transportation Association, approximately 3.6 million Americans miss healthcare appointments per year due to transportation issues. By rolling out Uber Health, Uber hopes to connect all patients with their physicians on a more consistent basis via cost-effective transportation, thereby engaging patients with their own health.
While the driver network will remain the same for Uber Health, the information of the riders—in this case, the patients—will remain anonymous to the driver, thereby complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). In addition, patients who do not have access to the Uber app will still be able to utilize Uber Health, as the healthcare organizations would be the ones scheduling the rides. The prices of Uber rides already undercut those of taxi companies. Providing a cheaper means of transportation from point A to point B will not only attract more consumers to the service, but will also reduce the number of no-shows at physician offices.
As a result, the overall health outcomes of these patients will improve, as patients would be more frequently informed of healthier lifestyles and treatment regimens by their physicians.
According to GlobalData, low patient prescription drug compliance rates remain a significant unmet need for most therapy areas. According to key opinion leaders (KOLs) interviewed by GlobalData, if patients were more engaged with their health and saw their healthcare providers more often, they would be more likely to get refills for their prescription medications and use their treatments on a more consistent basis. Since Uber Health would provide a cost-effective means for patients to see their providers, compliance rates would be expected to increase.
However, there are still other problems that would need to be addressed in order to guarantee increased compliance, including how patients with transportation issues get to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions, whether pharmaceutical companies might cover the cost of rides to pharmacies, how providers would track patient adherence to medications, and whether more frequent visits to the doctor would actually translate into increased compliance with treatment programs.
Although Uber currently does not have an answer to these questions, they did open a discussion for further advances in this area. The next five to 10 years will shed more light on whether Uber Health will be an effective means to drive patient engagement, and whether they can capitalize on the remaining opportunity to improve drug adherence.