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Uber announces service for patients traveling to and from appointments

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© AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File © AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File

Uber announced Thursday it's teaming up with health care providers across the nation to help patients get to and from their doctors for free. 

"Uber Health" allows doctor's offices and other health care providers to schedule rides for their patients. 

"If people miss appointments or can't get there, that becomes dead time when they'd rather be taking care of patients. So, there's a lot of reasons to get patients to a doctor's office and keep schedules fluid," Sen. Josh Green, an E.R. Doctor said. 

Uber Health Executive Jay Holley says the company can help do just that.

"Anytime that you have transportation related to your health care visit, your care provider can facilitate a trip on your behalf." Holley said. 

"Historically, people have used cabs for long rides, have had contracts with medicaid, those have been very inefficient.  So Uber is kind of the next generation for problem solving for transportation and health," Green said. 

Uber would charge rides to the provider and with doctors doing the scheduling, patients won't need a smart phone for service.

Uber stresses this is not for going to the E.R. but strictly for getting to and from appointments.  It says a patient's privacy is important. 

"We've spun up a new technology stock, new data centers that are fully HIPAA compliant, that are completely separate from Uber's core systems," Holley said. 

Eco Cab owner David Jung says cab drivers have leaned heavily on medical routes after Uber took a big bite out of the taxi business.

"Many of the taxi drivers have had to re-position if you will, and do a lot of the medical runs, health related trips because they are more sensitive to insurance requirements, background checks and so on and so forth," Jung said. 

Jung says his concern is that Uber Health is similar to other products like UberWAV, a wheelchair accessible vehicle, and uberASSIST.

"A lot of the time it's like a public ploy to public relations." explained Jung, "It's really not that effective. I suspect that Uber Health is going to do that, be just like that because I don't forego their surge pricing which is the cornerstone of their business model." 

Uber says it has been testing the service for the past eight months.

More than 100 health care providers have signed up so far. 

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