How hospitals are working with Uber to get patients to appointments

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Hospitals and health systems across the nation are partnering with Uber to ensure their patients safely make it to appointments on time, a recent Atlantic article reports.

Columbia, Md.-based MedStar Health is one such system. The nonprofit healthcare system began a partnership with Uber in January of this year. Through the partnership, patients can use Uber can book trips via the MedStar website. Medicaid patients or those without the Uber app can set up rides by calling MedStar's patient advocates directly.

The arrangement has been wildly popular. "We probably had 50 different systems across the country reach out to us and ask us, 'How did you do it?' I would say that it has been a seismic shift for people who have used the service and the places we've provided it," said Michael Ruiz, MedStar's chief digital officer, according to the report.

The trend is occurring in a variety of systems. Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center and Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Hospital both recently decided to work with Uber. Other organizations — such as Relatient, a healthcare communications company, and National MedTrans Network, a transportation company — have done likewise, having partnered with Uber and Lyft, respectively. Medicaid patients in Idaho have a new way to get to the hospital through Veyo, a San Diego-based startup that recently contracted with the state of Idaho.

These new partnerships are particularly beneficial to patients who have chronic conditions — and therefore need frequent hospital checkups — as well as those without access to private transportation. Hospitals are benefiting, too. As a recent study in BMC Health Services Research shows, healthcare organizations lose money when patients don't show up to their appointments.

Although these partnerships prevent patients from missing their checkups, they also have downsides. Wheelchair-friendly vehicles are only available in certain cities. In addition, access is often limited due to each driver's availability.

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