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Circulation: Uber’s Preferred Healthcare Partner

VP Strategy

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Close your eyes and imagine a customizable, patient-centric digital transportation platform that integrates healthcare systems and Uber’s API to provide reliable non-emergency medical transportation—Wake up, because pilot programs have already launched! Welcome to Circulation…

As startups started vying to become the “Uber of Healthcare” a couple years ago by offering high-tech physician house-calls through numerous digital services including third-party apps, Uber itself, and video chats, pundits from the LA Times to TechCrunch to Becker’s Hospital Review dismissed these “automated,” “impersonal,” and “stop-gap” attempts to fix healthcare as dead-end fads doomed to perpetuate everything wrong about the system.

Despite such an onslaught of skepticism, the beckoning inevitability of tech-facilitated patient-centric medicine has continued to captivate doctors, investors, and innovators, whose enthusiasm has since been matched by—you guessed it, Uber—first using their service to administer nurse-delivered flu shots, and recently bequeathing “Preferred Healthcare Partner” status to Circulation, a new vision for non-emergency medical transportation.

Founded by John Brownstein, a healthcare advisor to Uber and a professor at Harvard Medical School; Robin Heffernan, CEO of Epidemico, a population health informatics firm; Jared Hawkins, director of the informatics innovation program at Boston Children’s Hospital, a Harvard-affiliated hospital; and our very own Leerom Segal, CEO and co-founder of Klick Health, Circulation integrates with Uber to positively impact population health.

 

The Transportation Challenge

The multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, and technology innovators began by asking a simple question: “Why do Americans who qualify for non-emergency medical transportation services (NEMT) still struggle to find accessible, affordable rides to and from medical appointments?” Each year, around 3.6 million US patients miss at least one appointment due to lack of access to transportation. Why?

The facts reveal transportation remains a barrier to effective healthcare, because the actual logistical framework is inefficient. The use of outdated technology by third-party brokers results in bureaucracy and soaring costs for the entire system, as patients get frustrated by reimbursement restrictions, 48-hour advanced booking, last-minute cancellations, inadequate vehicles and no-shows—ultimately impacting not only costs but outcomes.

“The traditional healthcare transportation model is severely outdated,” Co-Founder John Brownstein insists. “Every patient’s experience begins and ends with their ride, which is why the integration of Uber and Circulation offers a smart, digital transportation platform for healthcare that customizes rides around patients’ specific needs and ensures they get the care they deserve.” A peek at the user experience is illuminating.

Hospital coordinators can schedule and manage on-demand rides that are affordable and tailored around individual patient needs — all from the centralized, convenient interface. Patient information files can be updated with transportation scheduling information, ensuring physicians, nurses and caregivers are notified when patients arrive for appointments, and receive alerts on the multi-patient dashboard — all in real-time:

 

circulation dash

 

How Circulation Works

The process begins with secure login and automatic verification of customer health insurance and ride eligibility. Patient contact and health information is then auto-populated into the system from health system records, enabling hospitals to schedule and manage transportation around patients’ needs and preferences. Scheduling can be done as far in advance as needed and reoccurring appointments can be booked with a simple click.

Personalized patient needs are met such as wheelchair assistance or help getting in/out of a vehicle, hearing/vision impairment, travel with a caregiver, and others. Patients can select uberX and uberXL, and in some cities uberASSIST, uberWAV (wheelchair accessible vehicles) and Uber Car Seat. Ride reminders and real-time notifications can also be automatically sent via phone to patients and their caregivers via text or email.

All billing and payment reconciliation is seamlessly handled on the backend. Potential fraud and abuse are mitigated by performance tracking functionality that gives administrators the ability to detect any suspicious activity. The platform also addresses patient health information concerns by being secure and compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect each users privacy and security.

 

National Roll-Out

Circulation is currently piloting at Boston Children’s Hospital, Mercy Health System’s three acute-care hospitals and all-inclusive care program for the elderly in Pennsylvania, and Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington, Delaware. Their goal is to expand across six additional states in 2016, continuing to help improve access and patient-centered services to acute care, elderly, and young patients in need of getting to their appointments.

“Unlike other new offerings that are stand-alone systems to dispatch on-demand vehicles, Circulation’s platform integrates with our internal systems, as well as with ride providers like Uber,” said Gary Zimmer, Senior Vice President and CEO, Clinically Integrated Network at Mercy Health System. “It’s much more efficient for our transportation coordinators and allows us to seamlessly orchestrate the ride into the overall patient experience.”

“There’s already much stress and anxiety on the part of families whose young children need regular medical care,” said Dr. Michael Docktor, Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “With Circulation, we can alleviate the added headaches that come along with traffic and parking challenges in a busy city such as Boston and ensure that parents can focus on their children — not the ride to the hospital.”

Ed Woomer, LCSW, Administrator, Patient & Family Services at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware said, “We’re excited to be participating in the next evolution of on-demand healthcare transportation with Circulation to provide more reliable, timely and predictable routine healthcare transportation to our young patients and their families. We have an opportunity to make a real difference for children in need of care but who live in rural areas and struggle to make appointments.”

 

Driving the Patient-Centric Healthcare Revolution

Digital tech has evolved into services transforming our everyday lives, already deeply impacting healthcare. Up to now providers, life sciences companies, tax payers, patients, and their families have carried the burden of transportation challenges that continue to delay critical interventions, costing billions and threatening the health of millions. Circulation is poised to reinvent the model and help literally realize the dream of an “Uber of Healthcare.”

To learn more about how better transportation can lead to better outcomes, email Circulation and visit their website. And to discover how an audience-centric approach to creativity, data, and technology can help you and your company use insights and innovation to better engage professionals, patients, and caregivers, reach out to the Agency of the Future, Klick Health.

More About the Author

Michael Spitz

A digital health expert since before digital health was cool, Spitz has since developed omnichannel campaigns for top pharma and device brands, and helps drive agency innovation, digital transformation, and emerging channels. See him present at conferences, read his blogs, and follow him for the latest trends and opinions on Twitter @SpitzStrategy.

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