Does Uber Know When You’re Going to the Doctor’s Office?

We’ve all come to rely on the ease of Uber, whether it’s heading out to a downtown restaurant or catching a ride to the airport. Uber’s now getting into the health-care space, offering a service to doctors allowing them to schedule Uber rides to and from appointments. As with everything, however, the devil’s in the details, and patient privacy is a top concern.

Federal and state privacy laws will be a major concern with the Uber Health service, Stephanie Trunk, a health-care attorney with Arent Fox in Washington, told me. Uber will have to maintain close oversight of the program, Trunk, a Bloomberg Law advisory board member, said.

Uber Health will be hired by doctors as a business associate, and will have sign business associate agreements, but it’s unclear how the agreements will cover the drivers, Colin Zick, a health-care attorney with Foley Hoag in Boston, told me. Uber drivers aren’t employees of the company but function as independent contractors. Zick said the driver will likely have to sign sub-business associate agreements with Uber.

The new arrangement could also run afoul of potential patient inducement issues, which the government has been focused on over the last few years, Zick said. For example, penalties can be assessed against anyone who offers a free service to Medicare beneficiaries that could influence their choice of provider.

Uber Health said it’ll be working with Nashville, Tenn.-based Clearwater Compliance to enforce HIPAA compliance. Doctors will log into Uber Health’s HIPAA-compliant platform and order or schedule a ride for a patient, Jay Holley, Uber Health’s head of partnerships, told me.

Drivers will approach an Uber Health ride no differently than a regular ride and will receive no indication that they’re taking a patient to a medical appointment, Holley said.

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