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Circulation & Uber Provides Non-emergency Medical Transportation

A new online tool is tapping into the popularity of ride-hailing services to help make sure patients don’t miss their doctor’s appointments.

The tool — called Circulation — launched Tuesday in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital to provide non-emergency transportation for patients. It’s integrated with Uber’s API and hospital electronic medical records. This means the Uber rides are customized to the patient’s medical needs. The company says this type of technology integration — between hospital information systems and on-demand transportation providers — the first of its kind.

Dr. John Brownstein, the co-founder of Circulation, said the online tool aims to give patients an on-demand transportation option and alleviate the cost of patients missing appointments — as transportation can often be a barrier to accessing health care.

Circulation basically allows hospitals to manage the transportation needs of patients. The tool will be primarily used by nurses, caregivers or a hospital’s transportation coordinator to book rides for patients.

Patients don’t have to do anything — and don’t need a smartphone, Brownstein said. They’ll just get a text message or a call when their ride is on the way.

Here’s how the tool works: When a user logs in, the tool will verify a patient’s insurance and ride eligibility. The tool then asks various questions to determine the best transportation option — for example, it might ask if the patient requires wheelchair assistance, needs help getting into or out of a vehicle, is hearing or visually impaired or travels with a caregiver. Then a patient, caregiver or hospital transportation coordinator can request a ride.

The tool also allows users to schedule rides in advance. And it has ride reminders for patients and notifications so physicians, nurses and caregivers can be alerted when a patient arrives for an appointment.

The cost of the ride will be covered by Medicaid or health insurance, and in some cases by the hospital. Rides through Circulation will be calculated by the same per-mile, per-minute rate that is charged for all Uber trips.

The launch of the Circulation tool comes after the MBTA partnered with Uber and Lyft earlier this month to offer subsidized on-demand rides for people with disabilities who use the T’s paratransit system The Ride. Ride-hailing services have faced criticism in the past for not offering enough services for people with disabilities. article published on wbur

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