Amid conversations about access to healthcare in the US, they are among several companies taking steps to assist social care workers in providing the public with greater access to health services. But this goes beyond just treating symptoms and gets to the root of many of the system’s problems, which come down to more than individual medical care and instead rest on social issues that impact much of the country.
The socioeconomic impact of healthcare access is far reaching.
The World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” According to Business Insider, these non-clinical factors influence 80 percent of health outcomes in the United States. And a 2019 Change Healthcare survey found that 39 percent of health care leaders planned to address transportation access for patients in the next year, indicating that this particular issue is the cause of a lot of strain on health care communities.
That’s where Uber and Lyft come in.
Uber and Lyft Offer New Healthcare Initiatives
On Thursday, Lyft announced its partnership with Unite Us, a “social care coordination platform…that uses its technology to connect health care and providers of social services,” reports Forbes. This is an effort to think differently about how to get social care services to underrepresented communities. “Coordinators and service providers who use Unite Us to make social care referrals can now order or schedule a Lyft ride on-demand to help patients access the care they need to live healthier lives,” the company said in a statement.
And Uber Health, which launched two years ago and has grown 300 percent year-over-year since then, introduced new “patient-centric features” on Wednesday which are “designed to meet patients where they are and to make sure technology is never a limiting factor in getting someone the care they need.”
The new Uber Health features include designated pickup spots at large hospitals and medical campuses, direct messaging between healthcare providers and drivers, multilingual notifications and making ride details available for landline users. Additionally, medical providers can request round trip rides for their patients, making sure that they can not only get to their doctor’s appointments, but back home as well. The company says that these initiatives were the result of close work with over 1000 partners to “map out pain points in the non-emergency medical transportation patient experience.”
The benefits of the program come quickly, with more Americans finding that they have access to healthcare.
While not a cure-all for the American health care system’s issues, easier access to transportation means healthier communities overall. Healthy People, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s science-backed information center, states that “accessing a location where needed health care services are provided (geographic availability)” is a major factor in making sure those who need medical assistance are able to take care of it in a timely manner, leading to increases in preventive services and decreases in unnecessary hospitalizations. Since many lower-income communities do not have high-quality medical facilities, access to Uber and Lyft’s services can alleviate some of the biggest pain-points in the US health care system.