Health Tech

Uber Health Launches Grocery, Over-the-counter Delivery Service for Patients

Providers and payers will be able to use Uber Health to deliver healthy groceries and over-the-counter items to patients who need them. They’ll be able to do this on the same platform they use to request non-emergency medical transportation and prescription delivery.

Uber Health is jumping on the food-as-medicine train. The company is adding grocery and over-the-counter delivery services to its platform, it announced Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Uber Health is the healthcare arm of transportation company Uber. Its solution offers non-emergency medical transportation and prescription delivery. Providers, payers and case managers will be able to use the same web-based platform they use for these services for grocery and over-the-counter delivery.

presented by

If a provider or payer customer notices that a patient needs an Uber Health service — whether it’s groceries, over-the-counter items, transportation or prescriptions — they can request it on the platform. They can also save notes on the patient, such as dietary restrictions, to ensure they deliver the right items. Uber has a large network of partners it works with, including restaurants with ready-made meals, grocery stores and retail companies for over-the-counter items.

“It’s really your dietitian or care coordinator or case manager that will be able to select the items that are right for you as a patient and your specific condition,” said Caitlin Donovan, global head of Uber Health, in an interview.

No app is required for the patients receiving the items at their homes. Instead, they receive a text message or phone call when a provider or payer requests the service on their behalf, and they can follow a live map to see the status of their delivery.

“A lot of patients who would need the service don’t have access [or] might not be comfortable with technology,” Donovan said. “Even if they are, they might not want to use their data plan because it’s too expensive. So it’s frictionless for them. They don’t need to download an app.”

Uber Health will be paid for these services through insurers’ benefit plans. Most (especially Medicaid and Medicare plans) cover transportation and delivery for prescriptions, groceries and over-the-counter items, Donovan said. But some providers, particularly value-based providers, will pay for the benefits out of pocket. Patients won’t have to pay for the service, according to Donovan.

“There are a lot of providers, and especially value-based care providers, who have found that those benefits aren’t rich enough, especially for the most complex, the highest acuity patients,” she stated. “So we also have a lot of providers that supplement those insurance benefits with out-of-pocket payments.”

Donovan sees this solution supporting patients across all insurance sectors. Many Medicare enrollees have complex chronic conditions, while the Medicaid population often battles challenges in accessing transportation and healthy foods. Additionally, employers are increasingly becoming interested in supporting patients with transportation and delivery services. Uber Health recently expanded its platform to self-insured employers.

There is a growing understanding that supporting healthy food and nutrition can reduce costly healthcare incidents down the road. A recent study found that if payers provided medically-tailored meals to patients who need them, 1.6 million hospitalizations could be avoided annually and payers could save $13.6 billion.

In launching this service, Uber Health aims to reduce complications for its customers and patients.

“To me, it’s all about making the experience convenient and frictionless for patients and providers, and really connecting the entire healthcare ecosystem together,” Donovan said.

Other companies that offer healthy food delivery services include FarmboxRx, Instacart and Kroger. Several payers have also launched food-as-medicine programs, including Kaiser Permanente and Highmark Health.

Photo: Uber Health