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Are patients being ‘taken for a ride?’

Are patients being ‘taken for a ride?’

The evolution of healthcare continues and now it’s patient transportation that is being given a spin! With the introduction of Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare, hospitals are using available technology to change both the ride as well as the destination. These services offer many benefits and present forward-thinking care delivery concepts that are being adopted across the industry. However, there are still the naysayers out there who continue to push back against the non-traditional. Do the advantages of improved accessibility and decreased no-show rates balance the concerns regarding compromised patient safety and quality of care? Let’s examine the pros and cons of this new-age approach and judge for ourselves!

The Pros

  • The Set-up: Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare follow a similar structure which places control in the hands of the provider – allowing staff to schedule transportation for patients, manage rides for recurring appointments, track utilization, and even oversee billing from a user-friendly online dashboard. This helps to ensure patient compliance with treatment plans and greatly reduces the risk of missed appointments/testing.
  • Privacy: The dashboard for these services is HIPPA compliant so a patient’s personal information, diagnoses, and treatment details are kept secure. The tools available through Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare meet the healthcare industry’s privacy and security standards which is paramount with any new online application in today’s technology-driven care environment.
  • Accessibility: Patients now have greater access to the services that are pertinent to their care plan and general health which they may otherwise have missed out on due to lack of transportation. Gone are the days of hospital staff needing to coordinate transportation through family members, ambulance companies, and other public services. With the reach and reliability that Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare have developed, their on-demand services are available to patients and caretakers throughout the country in most markets.
  • Cost: Compared to most transportation options, Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare tend to be among the least expensive. A fare estimator tool allows those booking the ride to plug in the pick-up and destination addresses to find out on the front-end how much the trip will cost. In addition, administrators receive a single monthly bill instead of the patient passengers having to pay upfront. Now, some insurance companies are even supporting these ride services and providing benefits to those they insure to help offset the overall cost.

The Cons

  • Safety: The chief complaint that many have with Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare are that they compromise patient safety and care quality by creating confusion around when and how emergency assistance should be used. Many patients will turn to these services as opposed calling 9-1-1 for the appropriate EMT and ambulance intervention because they are much less expensive. However, Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare drivers are not trained to administer medical care and are often forced to call for emergency assistance anyway. While Uber and Lyft do not advertise or claim to be replacement services for ambulance transportation, they are still being used as such which creates care delivery challenges and concern.
  • Technology Gaps: Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare passengers are contacted by text or call with their trip details at the time of booking and again when the driver is on their way. Though a cell phone or computer is not “needed” to utilize these services, they certainly make them more user-friendly. Uber and Lyft services are based around the ease of technology, but many of their customers in the healthcare sector are elderly and/or patients suffering from co-morbidities which may make it difficult for them to effectively understand, execute, and track their transportation.
  • Lack of Control: The goal of having transportation managed by the provider through the Uber Health or Lyft for Healthcare dashboard is to offer ease of service and peace of mind to the patient. However, many customers feel they have little to no control over their own schedule or their care which is a big dissatisfier. Some patients thrive on being told when and where to be while others view having their treatment “micro-managed” as a negative. Perhaps with further education on the process upfront, compromises can be reached and services administered in greater alignment with the patient’s vision/expectations.
  • The Unknown: As with all new things, especially those related to medical care/treatment, there is a certain level of fear in the unknown. The consumer group that Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare target are again, those patients that fall into the geriatric age group as well as those with more challenging care needs – those requiring frequent care and those that are less likely to have used Uber or Lyft services previously in a different capacity. Having a new driver for each trip that is unfamiliar with the patient and their unique circumstances can be disconcerting and add to the unease of the situation. Specific patient groups and personalities fair better with routine and continuity which Uber Health and Lyft for Healthcare can not always guarantee.

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