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CVS Health, Uber Health Join Forces to Help Consumers Access Healthcare

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   January 27, 2022

The two companies are partnering on an innovative program addressing the social determinants of health, with a service that offers free transportation to consumers to healthcare appointments and other resources.

CVS Health is partnering with Uber Health on a new program to tackle a persistent barrier to healthcare access: Transportation.

The two are joining forces to help consumers use free ride-sharing services to access medical care and other services. The program will launch first in Atlanta, Hartford and Columbus, OH, with plans to expand to other areas later.

"We've long known that access to reliable transportation can help address critical gaps in care that often disproportionately affect vulnerable communities,” Caitlin Donovan, global head of Uber Health, the healthcare arm of the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company, said in a press release. “With the past two years of the pandemic only further highlighting today's health inequities, it's more important than ever for communities to have the tools they need to bridge care gaps and achieve better patient and population health outcomes."

The partnership is one of many unique and innovative programs aimed at addressing the social determinants of health, factors outside the clinical orbit that affect health and wellness. CVS Health, based in Rhode Island, is addressing six of those factors – transportation, food, employment, education and housing – in its new Health Zones program, which will use and integrated strategy to tackle those issues.

"Our Health Zones initiative allows us to make a real impact on the health of communities across the country by working closely with organizations that share our commitment to addressing social determinants of health," Ellen Howard Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy and chief sustainability officer for CVS Health, said in the press release. "With the Uber Health platform, we'll provide critical transportation to people within communities who need it most, giving them access to healthcare services so they can live healthier lives and to jobs and educational programs that can help them reach their full potential."

CVS Health is launching this program in five communities to start: Atlanta, Columbus and Hartford, as well as Fresno, CA, and Phoenix.

The announcement comes as Uber Health strengthens its healthcare arm with the hiring of its first-ever chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Cantor, and partnerships with digital health companies Papa, which links seniors with college-aged caregivers, Surgo Ventures, which addresses maternal health issues, and ScriptDrip, which focuses on medication delivery.

Health system executives are taking a close look at the social determinants of health as well, as they can affect not only access to care but clinical outcomes, particularly in underserved populations. Along with forging partnerships to address barriers, they’re also using digital health tools and platforms to boost access to care.

CVS Health’s program comes as the pharmacy chain positions itself in the rapidly growing field of retail locations offering healthcare services, alongside the likes of Walgreens, Walmart and Amazon and either in competition or partnerships with health systems. They’re looking to attract business through the direct-to-consumer telehealth market as well as with health plans who can include these services for their members.

Eric Wicklund is the Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.

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