Uber Health chief: With 1,000+ partners, the question is no longer, 'What the heck is Uber doing in healthcare?'

Four million medical appointments are missed or delayed every year because patients can't get to their appointments due to transportation, data shows. That's $150 billion in cost to the healthcare system each year that rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are looking to address.

Dan Trigub, head of Uber Health, told Becker's at the AHIP Institute & Expo that when he attended the conference three years ago as a leader of healthcare partnerships at Lyft, attendees questioned why a ride-share company was at a health insurance industry meeting. 

"Three years ago, the conversation was, 'What the heck is Uber doing in healthcare? You're just taking a millennial to a bar on a Friday night,'" Mr. Trigub, who has been head of Uber Health for six months, said during a June 19 interview in Nashville. "But that couldn't be further from the truth in terms of how we can help underserved populations." 

Uber began its healthcare journey in March 2018 with the launch of Uber Health, which allows healthcare providers to arrange scheduled and on-demand rides for patients with and without smartphones. One hundred pilot members used the program prior to Uber Health's launch. Today, the HIPAA-compliant program has 1,000 partners, most of whom are providers.

On June 19, Uber Health also launched a partnership with Grand Rounds, a San Francisco-based health tech startup connecting patients to care, to provide no-cost rides to medical appointments through employee benefit programs. Here, Mr. Trigub spoke about Uber Health's other partnerships and what's up next for the "healthcare company within a $70+ billion tech company," as he describes it.

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Who is partnering with Uber Health?

Dan Trigub: Today we have over 1,000 partners on Uber Health. They're mostly healthcare providers, large health systems like [Columbia, Md.-based] MedStar Health and Cleveland Clinic. We're increasing our focus on work with Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage plans in particular, and also building partnerships and relationships with nonemergency medical transportation companies like LogistiCare.

Q: How does Uber Health factor into the NEMT space?

DT: The U.S. government spends over $3 billion a year on nonemergency medical transportation. It's about 3 percent of all Medicaid spend. How it works is there are these intermediaries who are called brokers that manage the transportation benefits for Medicaid and Medicare. LogistiCare is the largest one of these brokers. LogistiCare last year coordinated 70 million rides for Medicaid primarily. The vast majority of rides they could do, a ride-share provider like Uber could be a great solution for them.  

Q: Has Uber Health partnered with a company like LogistiCare?

DT: Nothing we've announced. But for us, just broadly speaking, building these partnerships and integrations with these traditional brokers like LogistiCare is really important. We certainly believe we have the best service levels not only here in the U.S. but on a global scale.

We have the largest meal delivery platform in the world outside of China with Uber Eats. Many Medicare Advantage plans in particular are paying for meal delivery and grocery delivery. So someone who lives in a food desert — getting quality, hot, healthy meals to them is really important. For us, it's about how do we incorporate that into Uber Health offerings? We're thinking about things like pharmaceutical delivery, [durable medical equipment] delivery — all things that we think we can execute on with the platform we have.

Q: Payment for some of the rides is coming from government payers. Are you seeing interest from commercial plans?

DT: We're starting to see greater appetite from commercial payers because they see [a return on investment] on ride-share. Boston Medical Center published a study, and they put out concrete data that we reduced no-shows and missed appointments; we saved them a lot of money, and we also provide better patient experience with ride-share. From their perspective, a $10, $15 Uber ride — the ROI is well worth it to avoid that no-show. 

Q: One thousand partners is large growth since March 2018. How do you see that number changing?

DT: This is a big year for us to really be out to market. … At the core, our mission is to help our elderly, low-income, at-risk populations access our platform for healthcare. We have an [application programming interface] where essentially our partners can embed Uber within their workflow. Any partner that has a software, any partner that has a mobile app or any engagement with their end-user, they can embed our API into that workflow and make it very easy to access Uber.

For example, we work with MedStar. MedStar uses Cerner. [MedStar case managers] are in Cerner every single day, and then they're on a swivel chair and they move over to the Uber Health dashboard. Imagine if there was that interoperability with an EMR, with other software platforms. We think it could create a much better experience for care professionals as well as provide easier access to ride-share.

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