Are Uber and Lyft Fundamentally Changing Medical Transportation?

Our take on this intriguing new trend.

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Millions of Americans miss important medical appointments each year for lack of reliable transportation. So Rideshare giants Uber and Lyft are getting into medical transportation through various partnerships. But there may be bumps in the road ahead.

First, the potential benefits:

Cost savings

In 2016, Lyft signed a non emergency patient transportation agreement with CareMore, a West Coast medical group and health plan. In just one year, between avoiding more expensive taxi rides and reducing no-shows, the partnership saved the plan more than $1 million.


Over that same span, CareMore patients saw 30% shorter wait times and patient satisfaction rose to more than 80%.


"This is one of those rare innovations where you can both improve the service and reduce cost at the same time," said CareMore CEO Sachin Jain.


But there is at least one downside to this new way of doing things. Uber and Lyft don't train their drivers to deal with patients with health and mobility issues.

Patients should always use the most appropriate transportation solution available to them. So consumers should understand the difference between using an Uber and using a traditional medical transport service.

So how exactly is traditional non emergency medical transport different than just using a rideshare app?

True non emergency medical transport is a "door through door" service, not "curb to curb." This means that if a patient needs any assistance getting in and out of their pickup location and destination, including for example, down a tricky flight of stairs, they'll want to go with the more traditional route.

Medical transport also involves trained drivers who understand patient needs, especially of the elderly and people with mobility issues, and accommodate them however possible.

So people should be careful before they decide to have Uber pick up their frail mother from the nursing home for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Right now, rideshare apps account for less than half of one percent of all passenger miles driven in the U.S. But in the future that number could be somewhere between 80% to 95%.

So as self driving cars and rideshare apps become ubiquitous, they'll also fundamentally reshape how we get people to their doctor's appointments and health procedures.

We asked On Time President, John Bush for his take on this change.

"We're always closely following technological developments in our industry," he said.

"You never know where we'll be in the next few years. But wheelchair van drivers absolutely should have proper training, such as MAVO (Mobility Assitance Vehicle Operator) certification. I think Uber and Lyft should seek out and contract with established and reputable medical transport companies."

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