Uber pushes further into healthcare with Grand Rounds partnership

Uber is moving further into the healthcare space with a new partnership with healthcare tech startup Grand Rounds, the ride-sharing giant announced Wednesday.

The collaboration will enable some of the largest employers in the U.S. to cover the cost of employees' trips to see the doctor. 

Grand Rounds works with more than 100 large employers including Comcast, Costco and Walmart and reaches more than 4.5 million covered lives. The San Francisco-based startup helps employers reduce the waste out of their healthcare spend by providing employees guidance on their medical needs, including navigating their health coverage and providing access to quality physicians.

Uber Health, a subsidiary of the ride-sharing service launched in March 2018, has primarily been focused on nonemergency medical transportation—a market worth more than $3 billion, according to the Transit Cooperative Research Program, a federally funded independent research entity.

Both Uber and its competitor Lyft see opportunities in the medical transport market, as the American Hospital Association estimates 3.6 million people in the U.S. each year do not obtain medical care due to transportation issues. Both companies have focused on working with health plans including Medicare and Medicaid to cover members' transportation to doctor's appointments

Lyft executives have said they are eyeing Medicare Advantage (MA) plans as a key demographic for its health platform. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently expanded supplemental benefits in MA to allow coverage for transportation to doctor’s appointments, and that opens opportunities for Uber and Lyft in the MA market.

RELATED: Patient transport—Using Uber, Lyft reduces wait times, boosts care access, saves money 

Uber's partnership with Grand Rounds expands the company's focus to self-insured large employers. The collaboration helps address the "last mile" problem in healthcare, Grand Rounds and Uber Health executives said.

"We know employers and their ecosystem partners play a major role in how individuals access care, whether that comes in the form of employee benefits or time off of work to travel to appointments," Dan Trigub, head of Uber Health, said in a statement. "By teaming up with Grand Rounds, our shared capabilities can simplify how members receive high-quality care, ensuring that we help remove transportation barriers and get members to the right place, at the right time."

The direct integration between Uber Health and Grand Rounds will offer members a different experience compared to how consumers typically use the ride-hailing service, the companies said. Rides are booked by a Grand Rounds care coordinator while they are on the phone with a member, typically during a time of stress or confusion when the patient is unable to book the ride themselves. This is particularly helpful for patients who don't know how to book an Uber or don't know whether Uber is in their city.

RELATED: Wanted: Clinicians to help Uber grow its healthcare platform

Grand Rounds care coordinators are now working on integrating the Uber interface directly into the Grand Rounds platform, enabling members to book rides directly, the company said.


"We're relentlessly focused on creating a better healthcare experience that leads to better outcomes. To achieve this, we need to make healthcare more accessible. Our partnership with Uber Health will make it easier for our members to choose high-quality care," Nupur Srivastava, vice president of product for Grand Rounds, said in a statement.


The partnership is the latest of several deals that Uber Health has inked just in the past month.


On June 18, the company announced a collaboration with Pack Health, a health coaching platform for chronic care management and monitoring, to help patients with chronic conditions get free rides to their medical appointments.


RELATED: Why Lyft is making Medicare Advantage a key focus of its healthcare work


Pack Health staff will coordinate rides for members through a centralized dashboard. Riders do not need the Uber app or even a smartphone, will receive a text message with the scheduled ride information on their phone and can send a text when they are ready, the companies said in a press release.


Pack Health plans to access the impact of the service by tracking usage and measuring how easy and seamless the experience was for patients.


Uber Health also is providing medical transportation to injured workers through a new collaboration with specialty risk transfer care coordination company Carisk Partners.

There were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Carisk works with insurers, government entities, self-insured plan sponsors and other managed care organizations. The partnership aims to provide timely care for injured workers while minimizing chances for travel complications leading to quicker recovery and a faster return to work for the patient.