Circulation, a startup that helps hospitals use Uber for medical transportation, gets seed investment

By Jonah Comstock
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Circulation, a startup using Uber's technology to facilitate non-emergency medical transportation, has secured an undisclosed seed investment from Flare Capital. Last month the startup, whose founding team includes Boston Children's Hospital CIO John Brownstein, announced its partnership with Uber as the ridesharing company's "preferred healthcare partner."

In addition to Brownstein, the company's cofounders include Robin Heffernan, CEO of both Circulation and Boston Children's Hospital spinout Epidemico; BCH Director of Informatics Jared Hawkins, and Leerom Segal, President and CEO of digital health agency Klick Health. Brownstein introduced the service at an event in Boston last month. 

"Why can’t Uber be that 'Uber for health' around the specific area of medical transportation?" he said at the time. "... We know that $6 billion are spent annually on healthcare transportation. We have a massive number of no-shows and transportation plays a really critical role. And when you look specifically at clinical trials, we have major issues with dropouts and we know some of those are just about logistics, just about getting to those trial sites."

Circulation is a HIPAA-compliant platform that lets healthcare providers tap into Uber's driver network to bring patients and clinical trial participants to appointments. In addition to Boston Children's Hospital, the startup is testing its platform at Mercy Health System in Pennsylvania and Nemours Children’s Health System in Delaware. It plans to be up and running at six additional sites by the end of the year.

"Consistent with our fund’s focus on the 'business of healthcare,' seemingly mundane issues around transportation have outsized impact on care delivery models," Flare Capital investor Michael Greeley wrote in a blog post yesterday. "Analysts estimate that for every missed appointment, the provider has lost nearly $150 in revenue. The ability to get patients at the time of discharge out of the hospital quickly frees up beds that can be used for new patients, say nothing of the improved satisfaction scores recorded by those patients. And the beauty of having Uber as a strategic partner, most everyone is now comfortable with consumer ride-hailing services, with no hesitation about getting in the back seat of a stranger’s car."

The platform is flexible and allows providers to communicate with patients who don't have smartphones, or to book cars that are equipped to transport a wheelchair, for example. 

"We’re very proud of this integration and thrilled to call Circulation our Preferred Healthcare Platform Partner,” Meghan Joyce, East Coast regional general manager at Uber, said in a statement. "Circulation is unique in that it seamlessly connects healthcare information systems to a dependable, low-cost, end-to-end platform that simplifies and improves patient transportation logistics. Through Circulation, hospitals now have a viable option for modernizing their non-emergency medical transportation and can easily request an Uber when they need one.” 

At the event last month, Brownstein said the startup hadn't settled on a business model, but was considering a software license fee or some kind of participation in the savings accrued using the platform.