Uber taps first chief medical officer for growing healthcare arm

Uber is pooling more resources into its growing healthcare arm with the hire of its first chief medical officer.

Michael Cantor, M.D., takes the role at Uber Health with more than 20 years of experience as a geriatrician and healthcare executive.

Those years, plus his time spent assisting his elderly mother with her health needs, will aid the team in its mission of closing care gaps faced by older adults and vulnerable populations.

“This is really a huge opportunity to fill in the gaps that I’ve been really frustrated with and struggled with as a clinician, as a health plan leader, as a clinical leader, and also as a son,” he told Fierce Healthcare. “This is an opportunity to fill needs that you know exist with a technology that’s flexible, scalable and less expensive in many cases.”

As the first doctor to join the Uber Health leadership team, Cantor brings indispensable clinical knowledge that can help the business better address the needs of partnering providers and patients, according to Caitlin Donovan, global head of healthcare at Uber Health.

“What we’ve consistently heard from our customers is that they’re using us as a point solution right now and are thinking about the ways to make that scalable,” she told Fierce Healthcare. “To do that, you need clinical expertise.”

Uber Health offers a dashboard and API solution to health organizations it works with, which can be used as a standalone product or integrated into an existing clinical workflow. Those tools help patients get to and from medical appointments with notes about a patient’s specific needs given to the driver by their care coordinator.

Cantor’s clinical knowledge allows him to speak the same language as the providers Uber works with, ensuring the company’s solution can address each health organization’s needs regardless of the type of care the organization offers.

“The beauty of it is that you can actually allow each of those teams to define what they need, and the technology is flexible enough for them to get that,” he said.

Millions of people miss or delay care in the U.S. each year due to lack of transportation. The issue is exacerbated among those who rely on public transit, including older adults, Black and Hispanic communities and populations of low socioeconomic status.

Uber Health launched in 2018 to expand access to healthcare in those communities through nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT) services.

The ride-hailing giant’s biggest competitor, Lyft, also stepped into healthcare with its own NEMT business, created two years before Uber Health with a similar model of allowing patients to schedule rides to their medical appointments on the health organization’s dime.

RELATED: Lyft gets new head of healthcare to lead expansion in nonemergency medical transportation

Cantor said his mom has relied on ride-sharing, prescription delivery and other secondary services to receive care—and Uber “makes it possible to link the system together.”

“What we’re recognizing in the healthcare system is that health is more than diagnosis and treatment. It’s about broader things like housing, transportation, being a part of a community,” Cantor said.

Uber Health has inked several partnerships in the past year to realize its vision of holistic care delivery.

Just last week, the company announced a collaboration with CVS Health to provide free transportation to medical care, work or education for high-risk populations in three major cities.

RELATED: CVS Health and Uber Health partner on free medical transportation to reduce barriers to care 

Uber also ramped up its prescription delivery business by teaming up with ScriptDrop last March, and it inked a deal with Papa in October to make it easier for older adults to get transportation to medical appointments and community events.

Donovan said the unit expects to announce more partnerships in the future to continue to build out its offerings with the central goal of improving access to care.

“To me, it’s all about building the ecosystem that allows for experts in each of those verticals to come together in a seamless way to provide that holistic patient experience. So I think you will continue to see partnerships from us along that same vein,” she said.