- Uber is betting big on its health business as a way to get it into markets it normally wouldn't reach.
- By working with health plans to provide rides to and from doctor's appointments — in particular for the elderly and people in rural areas — Uber can grow demand in areas that might not be a good fit for its ride-hailing service.
- "This is a good opportunity to grow our network in areas where Uber isn't as strong today," Uber Health head Dan Trigub told Business Insider.
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Uber is betting that it can turn its healthcare ambitions into a key business, using its Uber Health unit as a new way to get into smaller, rural markets across the country.
Uber Health works with health plans to provide rides to doctor's offices for patients who might otherwise have a hard time coming in. In 2018, the company hired Dan Trigub from competitor Lyft to head the team, and it's a growing business for the company, as CEO Dara Khosrowshahi highlighted in the company's second quarter earnings call.
"Our Uber Health platform that helps improve assets to health care organizations grew at over 400% year-on-year this quarter," Khosrowshahi said.
Uber Health works with health plans to manage the transportation needs of their members, particularly elderly Americans in Medicare plans, the federal health-insurance program for seniors, and those on Medicaid plans serving low-income Americans. Drivers are assigned rides that are treated the same as commercial trips.
The health transportation market is massive — LogistiCare, a transportation broker that Uber's working with, facilitates more than 60 million trips a year — and Uber is one of a number of players in the space that includes Lyft as well.
Uber doesn't break out its trips related to Uber Health, but the jump in growth Khosrowshahi highlighted in the earnings call points to the potential Uber has to grow in a key market following its 2019 public debut.The stock is down 27% percent since it started trading in May as investors worry about the company's high valuation.
Using Uber Health to create demand for rides in rural areas
Because of the arrangements with health plans who want to coordinate travel for their members, Uber's able to move into more rural markets. Uber can't expand to rural areas using its commercial ride-hailing service alone, because there isn't enough demand to attract drivers to stay in the area. But by adding in medical trips, the company can ensure there'll be work for drivers.
"When we think about our aging population, they tend to live away from big cities and those rural markets," Trigub told Business Insider in an interview on the sidelines of the CB Insights Future of Health conference in New York.
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"This is a good opportunity to grow our network in areas where Uber isn't as strong today," he said.
It's common for Uber drivers to commute into bigger cities from where they live to pick up enough rides when they're working. Ideally, by working with health plans to take care of transportation, Uber can tell its drivers that there'll be a demand waiting for them, Trigub said onstage at the conference.
For instance, while Uber does millions of trips in the state of New York every year, it's only been in Binghamton, New York for about a year.
'We want to be in every rural market'
"We want to be in every rural market, we want to be in frontier states, but there's not a lot of demand," Trigub said. Through Uber Health, Uber can reach an older population of users who wouldn't necessarily use Uber otherwise, he said.
Beyond transportation, Trigub and his team are thinking through how else Uber can help in managing the care of aging Americans. For instance, the company's been exploring what meal-delivery services or facilitating trips to food pantries might look like, most recently through a partnership with the nonprofit Feeding America.
Going forward, trips to pharmacies or deliveries of prescriptions or durable medical equipment, as well as connecting patients to caregivers, could all be on the table.
Getting to that point might take some time, though.
"We know it's not going to happen overnight," Trigub said. "It's a very nuanced industry."