How a ride-share can improve health: Uber Health's new CMO and global head explain 

Just a few weeks on the job, Mike Cantor, MD, chief medical officer for Uber Health, alongside the global head of Uber Health, Caitlin Donovan, spoke to Becker's about why exactly the technology transportation company needed its first CMO and its plan for doubling down on healthcare. 

What does a ride-share app have to do with healthcare?

While it's not initially intuitive as to how healthcare fits into the business plan of the ride-hailing giant, Ms. Donovan explained that Uber Health is trying to improve population health through transportation. After years working in healthcare, she noticed a pattern of challenges that could be solved. 

"I found some consistent themes which were, we had nurses that instead of spending their time talking with patients, helping them manage clinical issues, were spending time managing logistics," said Ms. Donovan. 

These logistical challenges often burden populations that are already vulnerable, like low-income people or those who have chronic conditions to manage that require continual treatment.

"When you think about the role of transportation in particular, it's based on what you can afford, it's based on your sophistication. Do you have a smartphone? Do you know how to use apps? It's not just socioeconomic status, but it's also age-determined," Dr. Cantor told Becker's

Uber Health's platform aims to diminish some of those disparities in transportation. It created a designated transport booking platform that allowed care coordinators to schedule and book rides on behalf of a patient, eliminating the need for the patient to have a smartphone. The Uber Health platform is also HIPAA-secure, so the drivers are unable to access any health information of riders.

Offering comfortable rides to patients through insurance plans or partnerships is only one aspect of Uber Health's focus. It also offers rides for healthcare providers themselves, such as home care nurses, who instead of driving between appointments now have the option of taking an Uber between patients, allowing them to complete any paperwork on the way. Uber is also delivering prescriptions to patients' homes through partnerships with pharmacies as well as food and even medical supplies.  

The first CMO

Dr. Cantor's new position as chief medical officer was announced Jan. 25. Before Uber Health, he held positions at Boston-based Tufts Medical Center, CareCentrix and UnitedHealthcare Group. He also still keeps up with house calls once a month.  

He explained that Uber Health needed somebody with clinical expertise and experience as a care provider as they form partnerships with hospitals, health systems and payers. 

"They want to know that the person on the other side of the table knows what they're talking about, but they don't have to describe the context, they don't have to explain what's motivating them in terms of the pressures on them and having lived in those roles, I totally understand what it's like," he told Becker's

Future growth 

As of now, Uber Health has around 3,000 customers and from Q4 2020 to Q4 2021 has seen a 71 percent increase in gross bookings, according to Ms. Donovan. Looking to the future, the company continues to look for different avenues of the health transportation market for growth, including the offer of rides included in Medicare Advantage plans, as well as improving its platform and services. 

"The opportunity to enhance the service to make it more technologically enabled, to be able to mine the data and use predictive modeling to figure out who's likely to get in trouble is something we're excited to build on," Dr. Cantor said.

They want to encourage health providers to use the benefits of transportation within clinical workflows as a way to increase patient adherence and outcomes but are also looking to more holistic ideas of health to drive growth. 

"The future will be beyond just the health-specific stuff. It's that broader concept of health is more than the absence of disease, and it's making sure that people are really empowered and able to live where they want to live and to stay healthy," Dr. Cantor told Becker's.

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