MedStar partners with Uber to expand transportation options for patients, prevent no-shows

The collaboration attempts to combat missed appointments, a growing and costly concern for healthcare providers.
By Jessica Davis
10:49 AM
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MedStar Health, the largest not-for-profit healthcare organization in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., region, is collaborating with Uber to increase access to health appointments.

Patients can access the "Ride with Uber" app through Medstar's website, prominently displayed at the top of the screen. They can type in their appointment data in a simple form and the app will display wait times and approximate costs and enable them to request a ride.

"Patients expect the same level of seamless integration in healthcare as they do in other aspects of their everyday life," said Michael Ruiz, MedStar vice president and chief digital officer, in a statement.

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"MedStar is focused on becoming a premier digital healthcare organization," he added. "Our partnership with Uber is but one small step toward a future where technology-enabled patient engagement rivals other industries that have been disrupted by digital technology."

[See also: MedStar taps Cerner for new EHR]

Numerous studies, including one from HHS, have shown transportation is frequently the reason patients miss appointments at the last minute. And some estimates have shown that missed appointments can cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion each year.

Another calculation by healthcare consultant Judy Capko, calculated that missed appointments cost providers about $150,000 on average each year.

Oftentimes, those no-shows are caused by simple forgetfulness. Medstar’s Uber collaboration seeks combat that with appointment reminders sent directly to patients’ phones.

"Our collaboration with MedStar can help patients better plan their transportation and ensure they never miss an appointment because they don’t have a ride," said Zuhairah Washington, general manager of Uber DC, in a press statement.

Uber can be used throughout MedStar's service area, which extends from north of Baltimore, Washington, D.C., northern Virginia and southern Maryland. Patients can be picked up from their homes in these areas to any of MedStar's outpatient or urgent care locations or its 10 hospitals.

This isn't the first health collaboration for Uber. They partnered with Practo, Asia's leading healthcare platform, in Nov. 2015 to partner patients with the right provider and set-up rides to appointments. The app also began offering the delivery of flu shots in the same month for 35 cities across the country.

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