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Uber + LBFE: more than just a ride to the doctor

January 9, 2019 / US

How Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly coordinated rides with Uber to give local seniors greater mobility and control over their lives.

Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) seeks to alleviate the symptoms of poverty and reduce isolation and loneliness that often disproportionately affect the elderly. When the San Francisco chapter received a grant from CSAA Insurance Group for a pilot program called Reliable Independent Destination Experience (RIDE), they turned to Uber Health to help build a mobility program for their seniors.

The challenge of just getting there

For many older people, the simple day-to-day tasks can be the hardest to do. As a person’s mobility decreases, so does their ability to do many of the things that some other people don’t give a second thought. The result can be missed doctor’s appointments, decreased quality of life, and social isolation.

“Most of us take for granted that we can get in our car or hop on public transit and go to where we need to go,” says Cathy Michalec, Executive Director at LBFE San Francisco. “But that is not the case for many of the older adults LBFE serves.”

LBFE needed a solution that would allow them to offer rides to seniors without having to rely on volunteers’ schedules.

Leveraging Uber Health to request rides

Uber Health is a HIPAA-compliant, web-based platform that helps healthcare organizations provide non-emergency rides for their patients, staff, and caregivers. LBFE selected it due to the safety features built into the on-demand technology, its accessibility to those without a smartphone, and its team’s customer service.

Many of the participating seniors didn’t have mobile phones, so the LBFE staff often managed communication between riders and drivers. For those who did have a mobile phone, communication happened directly between riders and drivers. But in both cases, LBFE staff needed to record the phone number, license plate number, and driver name in case something went wrong.

Driving results: a holistic approach to healthier lives for seniors

In terms of their initial goal of providing rides to healthcare appointments, the program was a success. Based on internal survey data, 45% of participants said they no longer missed a medical appointment, a fact due to the rides the program provides.

Healthy lives are about more than doctor appointments, though, and LBFE quickly realized they could expand into returning mobility to seniors so they would be able to live their lives.

While 50% of the rides through the grant were for medical appointments, look at what seniors were able to do with the remaining half:

  • 12% grocery shopping
  • 12% social gatherings
  • 6% health and wellness (like yoga, gym, and meditation)
  • 5% bank or post office errands
  • 15% split among trips to social service appointments, volunteering, LBFE programs, the airport, and Dream Outings (see below)

Dream Outings are activities that seniors couldn’t do because of a lack of transportation and the expense involved. For one woman who uses a cane and a wheelchair—and had not left her home in 6 years except for medical appointments—that meant going to the beach with her caregiver.

“She told us she spent 6 glorious hours at the beach, and she was so excited that she walked along the sand and water without using her cane or wheelchair,” says Michalec. “She picked up seashells and made a necklace out of algae she found on the beach.”

Learn more about Uber Health

To learn more about LBFE, head to their homepage. While the grant for this program has expired, LBFE is looking into other funding options to continue and to grow the program.