Uber? Providers aren’t ready for test drive

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Friday, August 2, 2019

YARMOUTH, Maine – With ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft already delivering food, it’s not a big stretch to think home medical equipment might be next but, for the most part, it’s not on the radar of HME providers, they say.

“Uber? I hadn’t considered it—until now,” said Gene Sego, president and owner of Sego’s Home Medical Equipment in Titusville, Fla. “I think providers are always looking at ways to get the product to the patient in a cost-effective, compliant fashion.”

Both Uber and Lyft have already waded into health care. In 2017, Uber launched Uber Health to partner with healthcare organizations to get patients to and from their appointments. Lyft previously launched a partnership with a transportation network to provide seniors in New York City with transportation to non-emergency medical appointments.

One provider who has taken a serious look at using Lyft for deliveries is Chris Rice.

“It’s a scalable, delivery service for on-demand, same-day deliveries,” said Rice, CEO of Riverside, Calif.-based Diamond Medical. “A lot of times, we just need to get a product from point A to point B very quickly and we may or may not have the staff to do it at the time.”

But the service would work best for things like resupplies and nebulizers—items that don’t require a lot of education—and Lyft would need to dial into the HME market more to make it a feasible option, Rice says.

“There are so many dynamics that DME requires, like education and receipts,” he said. “It could work, especially if you are delivering to a facility.”

Provider Craig Rae prefers to maintain tight control over who represents his company—and collects Medicare’s onerous documentation.

“I don’t want to contract that out to someone I don’t know or who hasn’t been through our screening or hiring procedures,” said Rae, owner of Penrod Medical Equipment in Salisbury, N.C. “Medicare has people on a ‘do not hire’ list. I’m not sure that Uber screens their people.”

Education and customer service are sticking points for provider Josh Eckstein, though he wouldn’t rule out using a ride-sharing service for deliveries, he said.

“You lose that personal touch where an expert comes in to set up the equipment and teach you how to use it,” said Eckstein, vice president of compliance and patient care for Reliant Medical in Buffalo, N.Y. “I would have to look at the cost.”