By Rachel Kraus
Uber already has a two-year-old Uber Health arm that allows doctors’ offices to arrange rides for patients to get to their appointments. But there’s much more to come.
Over the past six weeks, the head of Uber Health, Dan Trigub, has been making the rounds with lawmakers, analysts, and reporters about expanding Uber Health’s offerings. He gave the example of prescription delivery in October, and reiterated Uber’s interest in that area while in Washington, D.C. this week.
Last month while speaking at the CBInsights Future of Health conference in New York, Trigub said that delivering prescription drugs, medical equipment, and healthy meals are “all things we’re absolutely thinking about.”
Additionally, Politico reported that, this week, Trigub said Uber wants to deliver prescriptions and food within the next two years.
Mashable has reached out to Uber to learn more about these plans, and will update this story when we do.
The last year has seen a host of big tech companies diving deeper into healthcare, both publicly and behind the scenes. Most notoriously, a Wall Street Journal report exposed Google’s contract with a healthcare provider to analyze non-anonymized patient health data — a deal patients weren’t aware existed. Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are all also trying to tap into the fast-growing, multi-trillion dollar healthcare industry, with many of them relying on data collection. That worries consumers and experts who aren’t sure they trust sensitive data in the hands of Big Tech.
Uber is keenly aware of this sticking point, and wants to increase its healthcare business in a way that doesn’t involve the massive collection and analysis of personal data. It already doesn’t disclose the medical purpose of Uber Health rides to drivers. And the company also keeps data associated with Uber Health cordoned off from general data, and restricts who in the company can see it.
“We absolutely do not share our data with any third parties [or data brokers],” Trigub told Politico.
Instead, Uber encourages its healthcare partners to utilize Uber and patient data themselves. For example, doctors could use their own data about missed appointments to determine who might be a good candidate for Uber Health rides. And for Uber’s part, it could share data with healthcare companies about people who miss their rides, or people in area codes with limited public transportation, to help prevent missed appointments. That could be a boon for patients and doctors — but Uber itself doesn’t necessarily want to be the one that keeps the data and analyzes it.
Still, prescription delivery trips pose a bigger privacy headache than rides to and from doctors’ offices. To that end, it’s not clear yet just how Uber intends to safeguard data like what medications its users are taking — or if it would even be necessary to collect that data for any Uber Rx service.
It’s also not the only tech company trying to crack the logistics problem of prescription fulfillment. There are multiple companies out there, like PillPack, that let customers fill their prescriptions online, and then get them delivered by mail. But if Uber is able to integrate its appointment ride services with prescription delivery, its brand recognition could give it a massive leg up.
Sure, Uber’s move into healthcare might sound surprising, but it’s actually very much in lock step with the rest of its tech brethren. And as long as it can keep its hands out of the health data cookie jar, an Uber Rx that takes the sting out of long pharmacy visits is something we can all get behind.