[By Dane Finley]

Ride-hailing titans Uber and Lyft have each launched a suite of new services aimed at addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), according to Forbes. For context, SDOH refers to health-influencing factors outside clinical settings — such as access to transportation — that drive 80% of health outcomes.

Here’s an overview of the new services and what they mean for each ride-hailing giant’s healthcare play:

Uber rolled out new patient-centric features, like multilingual notifications, opening up its nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT) services to a wider swath of patients.

Uber’s new features aim to improve the NEMT patient experience, and include enhancements such as designated pickup spots, multilingual notifications, and scheduling for landline users. These updates expand the ride-hailing titan’s potential pool of users by making them available to patients who may have declined to use Uber due to cost or accessibility concerns in the past — such as the elderly or those without access to the Uber app or a smartphone.

Meanwhile, Lyft is diversifying its SDOH-focused offerings through its tie-up with social care coordination startup Unite Us. Lyft’s partnership with Unite Us — a startup whose platform links healthcare organizations with social service providers — aims to make it easier for care providers to connect their patients with social services that impact an individual’s overall health. For example, if a physician connects a patient with a job recruiter and that patient lands a job interview, Lyft could be called on to provide this patient with a ride. The tie-up with Unite Us enhances the scope of Lyft’s SDOH-focused efforts by closing the gap between access to healthcare and access to social services — factors that both influence patients’ health.

And as Uber and Lyft continue proving that their services can help reduce transportation and care costs, we expect to see both brands secure more provider and insurer tie-ups. CareMore Health System — which manages Medicare Advantage and Medicaid populations in select states — partnered with Lyft to enable caregivers to schedule rides for their patients and saw savings of more than $1 million in one year by switching from traditional transportation services, such as taxis.

And Boston Medical Center experienced a similar result, reporting $500,000 in transportation savings by leveraging Uber’s NEMT services. As the ride-hailing titans continue proving the value of their services in reducing transportation costs, we expect to see insurers also pursue tie-ups with the likes of Uber and Lyft in an effort to ensure greater appointment adherence among their members. That’s because payers will likely be looking for ways to slash their share of costs stemming from poor health outcomes due to missed appointments — which cost the US healthcare system $150 billion annually.

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