Ride-sharing apps like Uber have taken over a considerable share of the transportation market in the past several years, especially in cities. Though the benefits of grabbing a ride from your phone are obvious for the general public, many businesses in the private sector are beginning to capitalize on the affordability and ease of use with Uber, including the healthcare sector.
Paving the way
Circulation, a transportation platform based in Boston, is now setting up a platform with health systems to arrange rides with Uber's application programing interface. Many experts working within Circulation believe this model has huge potential, as it could provide a reliable form of transportation for home health workers. It also works on demand to deliver high-quality healthcare workers to patients suffering from non-emergency medical issues safely and accurately. According to Home Healthcare News, John Brownstein, Circulation's co-founder, Harvard Medical School professor and a health care adviser to Uber, Circulation is already looking toward the future.
"That would be the next phase of this platform," he said. Brownstein went on to explain that Circulation was "designed with seniors in mind … there's definitely an opportunity to use Circulation for on-demand home health services."
Working with hospitals and providers to use Uber for home healthcare could indeed help many seniors suffering from cognitive issues, such as dementia and Alzheimer's. These patients might feel more comfortable seeing a medical professional in their own homes. The same could be true for homebound seniors with physical impairments, such as those who rely on a cane or wheelchair to get to their appointments.
Is an 'Uber for healthcare' on the rise?
The terms "Uber" and "healthcare" have been used together a lot in the news lately, and it's no wonder. After all, on-demand services are incredibly easy to use and convenient, which is not the case for healthcare in many ways. Wait times to see a healthcare professional are rising, and many people want the personal connection with providers that quick appointments don't always allow. It would seem that an "Uber for healthcare" would solve many of these issues.
Still, there are some professionals in health tech who are wary about on-demand health services. In a recent TechCrunch article, the argument is that healthcare is a multi-faceted need for consumers and can't be solved in the one-time transaction, such as a ride to the airport. Most people, the author argues, value the doctor-patient relationship above anything else, which can be hard to nail down in an on-demand experience.
However, that's not to say that Uber can't be a great stand-alone tool for health systems to use for homebound seniors or patients with cognitive decline. Brownstein also spoke with the Boston Globe about a project he led last year called UberHEALTH, which successfully helped transport medical professionals in Boston and 35 other cities to administer more than 2,000 flu shots. In a survey given to those who participated in the program, 78 percent said that the delivery of the vaccine was crucial in deciding to be part of the platform.
While it's still unclear whether or not Uber will turn into a fixed part of the healthcare system, there are signs that it could become more common in the home health sector in the future.