Uber Health is jumping on the food-as-medicine train. The company is adding grocery and over-the-counter delivery services to its platform announced Tuesday.
Based in San Francisco Uber Health is the healthcare arm of the transportation company Uber. Its solution offers non-emergency medical transportation and prescription delivery. Suppliers, payers and case managers will be able to use the same web-based platform they use for these grocery and over-the-counter delivery services.
If a provider or paying customer notices that a patient needs an Uber Health service, whether it’s groceries, over-the-counter items, transportation or prescriptions, they can request it on the platform. They can also save patient notes, such as dietary restrictions, to ensure they deliver the right items. Uber has an extensive network of partners it works with, including convenience restaurants, grocery stores, and over-the-counter retail companies.
It’s really your dietician or care coordinator or case manager who will be able to select the right items for you as a patient and for your specific condition, said Caitlin Donovan, global head of Uber Health, in an interview.
No app is required for patients who receive the items at their home. Instead, they receive a text message or phone call when a supplier or payer requests service on their behalf and can follow a live map to see the status of their delivery.
Many patients who would need the service do not have access [or] he may not be comfortable with technology, Donovan said. Even if they are, they may not want to use their data plan because it’s too expensive. So it’s frictionless for them. They don’t need to download an app.
Uber Health will be paid for these services through insurance benefit plans. Most (particularly Medicaid and Medicare plans) cover the transportation and delivery of prescriptions, groceries and over-the-counter items, Donovan said. But some providers, especially value-based providers, will pay for benefits out of pocket. Patients won’t have to pay for the service, according to Donovan.
There are many providers, and especially value-based care providers, who have found that those benefits aren’t rich enough, especially for the most complex and highest acuity patients, he said. So we also have many providers that supplement those insurance benefits with direct payments.
Donovan sees this solution supporting patients across all insurance industries. Many Medicare enrollees suffer from complex chronic conditions, while the Medicaid population often faces difficulties accessing transportation and healthy foods. Furthermore, employers are increasingly interested in supporting patients with transport and delivery services. Uber Health recently enlarged its platform to self-insured employers.
There is a growing understanding that supporting healthy food and nutrition can reduce costly healthcare incidents down the road. A recent study found that if taxpayers provided medically tailored meals to patients in need, 1.6 million hospitalizations could be avoided each year and taxpayers could save $13.6 billion.
With the launch of this service, Uber Health aims to reduce complications for its customers and patients.
For me, it’s about making the experience frictionless and convenient for patients and providers, and really connecting the entire healthcare ecosystem together, Donovan said.
Other companies offering healthy food delivery services include Farmbox Rx, instacart AND Kröger. Several payers have also launched food-as-medicine programs, including Permanent Kaiser AND Highlight health.
Photo: Salute Uber
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