HACKENSACK, N.J. - It’s the ride-sharing company’s first partnership to provide outpatient medical transportation in the world. Uber will soon be picking up patients at Hackensack University Medical Center and driving them home, as part of an agreement in which HUMC will pay part of the fare.
“It’s the first of its kind partnership where Uber is partnering with a hospital,” said Ana Mahony, the General Manager for Uber New Jersey.
Drivers will pick up patients at 7 marked Uber zones that will be scattered and marked throughout HUMC’s campus. Signs are not yet posted, but they will identify the spot like a bus stop. Uber’s smartphone app is already running a beta version of how this will work.
“So if a cancer center patient is coming out of radiation,” said Mahony, “the driver will meet them right at the Cancer Center pick up spot, where staff will be assisting the patient in and out of the vehicle.”
Because of advances in medicine, roughly 10,000 patients come to HUMC for treatment and leave the same day. But this leap in the quality of healthcare has also created a transportation hardship for patients who may not be able to drive after undergoing a procedure.
One patient waiting for her ride today was lucky enough to have loved ones available to pick her up.
“It’s great though, for people who really do need it,” said Judy Toscano, after hearing the news.
Toscano said that she was just talking about the problem of coordinating rides with another patient inside the HUMC Cancer Center. Many who come for regular appointments at HUMC cannot always rely on family members to pick them up, if they are at work or otherwise unavailable.
“I was just speaking to a few people and she was saying she’s gonna have more treatments and they get tired after the treatment. And I said you better not drive you know,” said Toscano.
HUMC President and CEO Robert Garrett said that the hospital has received a lot of feedback from patients about transportation. He said some patients have had to wait as long as 3 to 8 hours before being able to coordinate a ride home.
“Transportation was often cited by patients as one of the difficulties,” he said, “You know our campus is very spread out. It’s 3 million square feet of buildings over many acres. And with the mapping that Uber has done, patients can get to and from very specific locations.”
Garrett explained that HUMC is still working out how they’ll pay for part of patients’ trips home. Fare coverage will be calculated on a sliding scale that is based on the patient’s financial need.
Patients will also be able to access Uber directly though HUMC’s smart phone app.
Everything is expected to be fully operational within several weeks, according to a hospital spokesman.
Uber’s partnership with HUMC may signal a broader move by the ride-sharing company into non-emergency medical transportation. Mahony said that Uber is interested in talking with other hospitals about developing further relationships that would benefit patients.
Uber’s driver-owned fleet is not widely equipped to carry handicapped passengers, but this is also something the ride-sharing company is working on, she said.