Uber on Thursday announced the launch of Uber Health, a new service meant to provide people with rides to medical appointments. The solution doesn't work through the main Uber app and is instead based on traditional text messages, with patients of eligible clinics and other such institutions receiving details about their rides via SMS. Going forward, the startup is also looking to offer ride information via phone calls. The process of contacting customers remains entirely automated, whereas drivers will still be managing rides using the Uber app for Android and iOS devices, the firm said. Organizations participating in the program will be able to arrange transportation for their patients via a dedicated system. Such arrangements are likely to be made by receptionists and other support staff at healthcare clinics.
Rides can be hailed momentarily or up to a month in advance, with the main goal of the program being to provide elderly patients without a smartphone with means of affordable transportation, the company said. The service itself is entirely compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, with Uber already striking partnerships with dozens of organizations such as the Georgetown Home Care. The San Francisco, California-based startup believes its newly launched platform will be able to eliminate one of the most significant barriers to healthcare – transportation. As such, the service is only being introduced in the United States and the firm did nothing to suggest it will be expanding Uber Health to other countries in the future. The platform is available across the U.S., with interested institutions already being able to access its dashboard and application programming interface that they can use to implement Uber Health support into their existing systems.
Lyft announced a similar service late last month, with its offering also targeting all non-emergency medical trips. Both startups see medical-related transportation as a potentially significant growth engine and means to diversify their existing portfolios. Uber is presently in the process of stabilizing its operations following a troubled fiscal year riddled with scandals and lawsuits. New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi repeatedly stated the company is targeting an initial public offering in 2019.