- Uber will soon be able to deliver groceries and other over-the-counter items to patients of its payer and provider clients, in the latest benefits expansion of its Uber Health platform.
- Uber Health, which already provides non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) and prescription delivery, has been expanding beyond medical transportation to care coordination across multiple benefits, Catilin Donovan, the head of the division, said in an interview with sister publication Healthcare Dive. Soon, provider users will have access to patient benefit data and eligibility files from their health insurers, so they can prescribe services they know are covered.
- Uber is not yet giving specifics of Uber Health’s financial performance, but Uber Health grew bookings by 75% year over year in the first quarter. Donovan declined to say whether Uber Health was profitable.
Uber created Uber Health in 2018 as an NEMT dashboard allowing healthcare workers to book rides for patients to and from medical appointments. The ride sharing app has spent the past five years expanding its capabilities, and in March added same-day prescription delivery.
The company’s expansion into grocery and OTC item delivery is meant to help clients improve value-based care and population health programs without adding extra burden on patients, and represents Uber Health’s pivot from an NEMT provider to a broad web-based tool that allows doctors’ offices, health plan workers, case managers, social workers and other providers to request things for patients based on their health needs, Donovan said.
Other delivery platforms have launched food-as-medicine initiatives, including Instacart, joining a number of startups with the goal of linking medically tailored meals with convenient access. Food-as-medicine, which has historically been viewed as an important but niche area of healthcare — and one that faces large systemic problems — has been attracting more attention. Last year, the White House committed more than $8 billion to fight malnourishment.
Uber claims it’s differentiated from other healthy food delivery or NEMT vendors because it also addresses medication adherence and benefits coordination.
“Now we’re a one-stop shop,” Donovan said. “If you think about what NEMT providers do today, or what supplemental benefit providers do in general today, their work is incredibly important. But it’s incredibly siloed.”
Healthcare companies partner with NEMT players to reduce patient no-shows, shifting the reliance on emergency services to upstream preventive primary care, especially for vulnerable low-income populations. The downstream costs of missed medical visits in the U.S. are estimated at roughly $150 billion annually, and 3.6 million people miss appointments due to lack of transportation each year, according to research.
In a press release about the delivery initiative, which will leverage the Uber Eats grocery-delivery platform, Uber noted that food-as-medicine initiatives have the potential to improve people’s health outcomes while also reducing the nation’s healthcare bill.
The company cited a 2022 American Medical Association report indicating that providing medically tailored meals nationwide to people with diet-sensitive conditions and limits on their activity could help avoid 1.6 million hospital stays and save health insurers $13.6 billion per year.
Uber competitor Lyft has also been building out its NEMT division after launching it in 2016.
Uber and Lyft directly compete with other medical transportation companies and brokers in the NEMT market. Some NEMT players have accused the large rideshare companies of not having the healthcare experience or specialization of vehicles and services to address the needs of some populations.
Uber Health, which has grown steadily since its founding, is paid by its more than 3,000 healthcare customers in a few different ways — per ride or visit, or a fee schedule or per-member per-month charge for higher volume clients. Generally, patients don’t have to pay out of pocket for Uber Health services, according to Donovan.