Uber recently announced the launch of Uber Health, a non-emergency ride service that allows healthcare providers to schedule and pay for transportation for their patients. The stated purpose of the service is to expand medical transportation to traditionally underserved areas. Roughly 3.6 million Americans miss medical appointments each year due to lack of reliable transportation, contributing to the roughly $150 billion per year the healthcare industry loses due to missed appointments.
Healthcare providers will be able to access a digital dashboard to schedule rides for their patients. The providers will pay the cost of the individual ride rather than obtaining a monthly subscription. However, anti-kickback laws may be triggered if a provider offers certain patients free or discounted transportation. Thus, healthcare providers must be cognizant of their compliance obligations and familiar with the requirements of the federal anti-kickback statute safe harbor for ride-hailing services.
With regard to patient privacy, Uber stated that its drivers will not be given any information to indicate that the passenger hailed the ride through Uber Health, as opposed to Uber’s traditional ride share model. Because Uber Health handles healthcare data for healthcare providers who are covered by HIPAA, Uber Health is considered a HIPAA “Business Associate” and is required to comply with HIPAA obligations, including executing Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) with healthcare organizations. Uber Health has stated that it is HIPAA compliant, and that it provides HIPAA-trained support to ensure patient privacy and security and to answer any questions the healthcare provider or staff may have relating to the service. Other steps Uber Health said it has taken to ensure HIPAA compliance include the encryption of rider information in order to safeguard PHI when ordering patient rides.
So far, over 100 healthcare organizations have tested the beta version of the program. Not surprisingly, Uber is not the only ride-share service to enter this space. Over the past few years, Lyft has engaged in strategic partnerships with health insurers, hospitals, and medical transport services to provide non-emergency medical transportation. If these ventures in medical transportation prove successful, others can be expected to follow suit.