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Medical providers see Uber as a viable option for non-emergency patients

Some hospitals are embracing the ridesharing app for patients with limited transport options

By EMS1 Staff

WASHINGTON — Hospitals and medical providers across the country are experimenting with services like Uber and Lyft to transport non-critical patients. Some trips are even covered by Medicaid and other insurance plans, reported KHN News.

Patients without access to reliable transportation may find it difficult to make their medical appointments, especially those suffering from chronic illnesses like asthma or diabetes. If they can’t find a ride, some of these patients will call 911 and use ambulances like a taxi service, tying up emergency resources in the process and running up large bills that taxpayers are forced to pay.

To ameliorate the issue, health care providers like MedStar Health in Maryland and National MedTrans Network have begun working with services like Uber and Lyft to serve these patients. Hackensack UMC, a New Jersey hospital, has also partnered with Uber to give financially strained patients a ride home once they are discharged.

These partnerships may reduce the strain on EMS agencies as well.

Hospitals and community paramedicine programs use these services to give “frequent flyer” patients greater access to primary care, removing their need to call an ambulance for non-emergency transport.

However, there are still some barriers that have yet to be addressed. Uber coverage varies from city to city, and vehicles that can hold wheelchairs may not always be available.

MedStar, for example, told KHN News that extra steps had to be taken to find an Uber that could transport a patient from a rural area to a hospital in D.C. for a surgical appointment at 4:30 a.m.

The Uber experiment isn’t perfect, but agencies like the Phoenix Fire Dispatch Center in Arizona are paying attention, and considering if it’s worth starting similar partnerships.

Uber drivers, on the other hand, seem to be pretty excited about the idea.

“I never thought they (Uber) would do something like that,” said Uber Phoenix Driver Warren Wellman. “To know that I could help somebody else would absolutely be rewarding.”