The other week, there was a great deal of buzz in the health care industry surrounding “Outsmart the Flu with UberHEALTH.” This new option within the popular Uber app is the latest example in the fast-growing field of on-demand health care and resulted in an estimated 10,000 people receiving the flu vaccine in 35 cities during a four-hour span on November 19th by connecting Uber users with registered nurses from Passport Health (the largest provider of travel medicine services with travel clinics throughout the United States). Those who participated received wellness packs for $10 (with tissues, hand sanitizer, a water bottle) and the option to receive a flu vaccine from a Passport Health nurse for the Uber user and up to nine others in the recipient’s workplace, household or general vicinity. The Passport nurses handled all required paperwork associated with the vaccines. All users had to do was use the app, find an indoor location where the vaccine could be administered and fill out a consent form and waiver identical to the ones needed at a pharmacy.
This is an important milestone in the history of on-demand health care. The flu affects approximately twenty percent of the U.S. population each year, yet less than half of U.S. adults get a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting the flu shot is the best way to prevent getting the flu. It can reduce the severity of the flu, and prevent otherwise avoidable doctor’s visits, missed time at work and school and hospitalizations. Through UberHEALTH, many people were vaccinated for the flu that otherwise may not have been. As such, this winter our society may be a little healthier and our health care system may be less burdened by this preventable disease.
Like other on-demand health care services, UberHEALTH is focused on convenience throughout the user experience. Results from the pilot conducted last October (published in the Annals of Internal Medicine) reported that accessibility, availability at convenient times and perceived ease of vaccination were the major driving forces behind usage.
The built-in network of approximately 400,000 Uber drivers in the United States has an enormous potential to change how health care services are delivered. There are a number of local health care projects Uber is piloting, such as helping to provide pre-arranged rides for patients discharged from a hospital to physician visits and other post-hospital care. Other startups provide people the option to have doctors make house visits. Efforts like this could have a dramatic impact on how, when and where people receive health care.
The delivery of health care services using technology that has mass popular appeal like UberHEALTH mean that individuals can receive needed care and services without the obstacles associated with receiving care from a traditional health care provider. As health care communications professionals, we should challenge ourselves think about how we can leverage commonplace technologies like Uber to reach target populations with needed health information that facilitates access to health care in an easier, user-friendly manner.