How Uber And Lyft Became Part Of The Healthcare System

First Posted: Apr 01, 2019 10:09 PM EDT

The convenience of on-demand transport has become a creature comfort of our modern lives, but can easy availability of this transport system change the way we think about medical care systems? Apparently, it can. In a post on their blog, Lyft stated that they would be dedicated to providing transport for Blue Cross Blue Shield. This is significant, and on-theme with a service launched by Uber termed Uber Health. Tech Crunch notes that Uber Health focuses on a B2B approach of offering clients such as clinics or hospitals access to on-demand ride-sharing services that the company has become famous for. While there may be some that don't see the need for Uber and Lyft to be part of the healthcare system, the fact is that they may be just what the overburdened system needs in order to deal with the number of patients it needs to see to.

A Necessary Public-Private Partnership

According to Health Management Technology, missed appointments can cost the health system as much as $150 million dollars in wasted payments annually, with the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences stating that as many as 3.6 million people can't go to appointments because they lack transportation. This volume is staggering and shows a hole in the system that needs to be plugged in order to offer proper service to all the clients that need it. Uber and Lyft have become accepted parts of life in a city, and ridesharing, far from being a strange novelty, is something people use on a daily basis in order to get around.

Potential Benefits to the System

The most obvious immediate benefit is the freeing up of money used to pay for transportation services for these medical locations that follows from reduced  medical malpractice costs. Instead of having to pay for vehicle maintenance and on-call drivers, it is a lot easier to simply subscribe to a ride-sharing company and utilize their services to be taken out of a pre-allocated transportation budget. There are a few less obvious benefits, however. While a report by Health Affairs noted that clinics and hospitals did indeed save money by switching to Lyft (as much as 39% within the first year and a half), it also showed that Lyft was a lot more punctual than any of its competitors, making it an obvious choice for clinics that need patients transferred within a set period of time.

Not All Roses in Rideshare Land

While the benefits of an implemented rideshare system for health are now obvious, there is concern that it still doesn't address the initial problem it was designed for. The University of Pennsylvania notes that the volume of missed appointments remained at 36% despite free rideshare services being offered to patients to ensure they got to the medical center on time. This may be due to a lack of enthusiasm from the public when it comes to utilizing the rideshare service to go to a doctor's appointment, or it might be due to a completely different factor - that of people avoiding appointments because they don't want to go to the doctor and face the wrath of consumer protection laws. In any case, while these rideshare companies don't decrease the amount of missed appointments, they do make a major difference to the punctuality and cost of patient transport.

Possible Wider Adoption

Uber and Lyft are but two of the rideshare services that have permeated the nation and offered independence of transport to those who don't have it. As the population ages and more and more people lose the ability to drive themselves to doctor appointments, having a rideshare service present to offer those people the freedom and security that they once had themselves is priceless. Medicine is a service industry, and offering a service like this to clients is more likely to result in repeat business, not to mention it would be a no-brainer to clients who don't have their own transport. It's likely as time goes by we may see not just Uber health and Lyft become more prevalent and widespread, but other competing rideshare operators, possibly geared specifically to offering healthcare transportation.

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