With slew of partnerships, Uber rolls up to healthcare space

By Jonah Comstock
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UberHEALTH-ScreenshotWith every new innovator in digital health, it seems like there's a temptation to crown an "Uber for Health" that will disrupt the industry in a radical consumer-facing way. But lately, it looks like Uber itself might be interested in that title. Over the last week, Uber has collaborated with three different digital health companies and named Boston Children's Hospital's John Brownstein its first health advisor.

"We know there is more that we can do and are thrilled to have John Brownstein, PhD joining as our first advisor in the field of health care," the company said in a statement. "With his guidance and expertise, we will be able to identify other ways we can leverage the Uber platform so we can drive to a healthier future."

Following up on last year's UberHEALTH pilot, which successfully delivered flu shots to 2,000 people in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., and had to turn away some others, Uber partnered with Brownstein's company Epidemico to deliver flu shots in 36 cities. It was a one-day opportunity in which users could pay $10 for a registered nurse from Passport Health, driven by an Uber driver, to arrive with a wellness kit, which included an UberHEALTH water bottle, tissues, hand sanitizer, a lollipop and recyclable UberHEALTH tote. The nurse could vaccinate up to 10 people at each site.

According to the Boston Globe, Uber planned to distribute 10,000 vaccines, but the data wasn't yet in on how many had been given out. The company is also not sharing whether it will return the service for a third year in 2016.

Uber partnered with Voalte and Practo in separate but similar partnerships that will allow patients scheduling doctors' appointments to schedule rides to those appointments with Uber at the same time.

Hospital communications app Voalte and Uber are working with the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System to develop and pilot a new app that will "integrate with Uber’s internet-enabled platform to give a pilot group of Sarasota Memorial patients discharged from the hospital a convenient option to pre-arrange rides through Uber for physician visits, lab work, rehabilitation or other post-hospital care that has been recommended", according to a statement.

Meanwhile, in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore, patients who book a doctor's appointment on Practo's mobile application will be able to view the closest Uber available along with the appointment reminder alert, according to a press release from Practo. For a limited time, new Practo users will be able to get two Uber rides for free. The company plans to expand the partnership to additional countries.

At the White House summit on aging earlier this year, Uber also announced pilot programs in Florida, Texas, Ohio, Arizona, and California that will partner with senior community centers to provide free technology tutorials and free or discounted rides to older Americans.