According to an announcement today, Uber has signed a deal that introduces the possibility of its drivers being used by caregivers and patients in the UK, in a move that continues to expand the app’s presence much beyond just disrupting the taxi industry.
To that end, Uber has struck up a partnership with London-based startup Cera, provider of care-related services to elderly people. The platform allows anyone to book emergency or long-term care from a smartphone, the family members being able to set up a channel of direct communication with the caregiver and receive updates on how things are progressing.
While Cera is mainly for private healthcare services, it has also now entered into an agreement with a number of London hospitals belonging to the National Health Service (NHS) (Britain’s publicly funded health body), meaning that the NHS might effectively pay for a caregiver’s Uber transport — with the only condition being that Uber must be deemed the most efficient and cost-effective way to travel to see a patient.
Those requiring care will also be able to book cars through UberASSIST or through UberWAV, which have on offer specially equipped vehicles driven by people with special training. Jo Bertram, the regional general manager at Uber, said:
Uber’s mission is for everybody to have access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation, and this partnership brings us a step closer to making that a reality. Simply by tapping a button on our app, carers will be able to get to people quickly and efficiently, while those with mobility needs will have the freedom to get out and about.
Most people look at Uber as merely an easy way to book a private car and driver through their smartphone. However, Uber has managed to create a giant transport network that can be reworked around the fulfillment of any number of needs. This could be for delivering food, as with UberEats, or other items, as with UberRush. Now, this gigantic network can also be seen moving into the healthcare sector.
Although not having employed Uber directly, but through proxy Cera, NHS has nevertheless been looking to US technology companies. Back in 2015, the NHS teamed up with Tinder to help raise awareness about organ donation among young people.
Last year, Google-owned artificial intelligence startup DeepMind signed a five-year deal to access NHS patient data, with clinicians receiving automated alerts for patients who display signs of acute kidney ailments. Speaking about this indirect partnership, a spokesperson for the Barts Health NHS Trust emphasized,
We do not have any contracts with Uber to provide non-emergency patient transport. When patients need assistance getting to and from our hospitals we provide ambulances and medi-cars, driven by trained experts.
Dr. Ben Maruthappu, co-founder and president of Cera, said:
This pioneering partnership between Cera and Uber will radically integrate care and transport through technology. Older people and those with disabilities will now have access to the highest quality drivers, while carers will be able to efficiently travel to ensure they can provide services in the right place at the right time.
David Mowat, the minister for care and support, said:
This is an interesting and innovative proposal which will help raise awareness of the challenges faced by the vulnerable elderly, and those with specific conditions that are becoming increasingly common in our society. I look forward to hearing more about the results in due course.