Last night, author Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) tweeted about Uber’s new partnership with healthcare groups and hospitals, by commenting that Uber invented an ambulance. It is easy to understand why Uber deserves the snark. They have not painted themselves in glory and behavior that was worthy of applause. They have become a symbol of corporate dastardliness.
But even from that context, Anand’s tweet (since deleted) made no sense. Nowhere did Uber claim that it was inventing an ambulance. Instead, all the press release said that Uber was working with healthcare groups and hospitals to make it easy to get Uber in advance for patients who need to travel for medical visits.
I for one can personally attest that this is a good thing Uber is doing, albeit for selfish and self-serving reasons. After my surgery about ten years ago, I had to visit the UCSF Parnassus campus about once every three days. At the time, I lived in San Francisco’s financial district. And despite that, it was virtually impossible to find taxicabs to visit the doctors. Coming back from the hospital was even worse – you called a taxi company and waited and waited and waited. And sometimes the taxicab would should up in time.
Fast forward to today and looking back, I can safely say, Uber was immensely helpful in my subsequent medical care. My visits to the doctors — still a few times a month — have become easier to manage. My time is better handled, and there is a degree of predictability around the drive-time experience. Uber, has done good, at least for me. And I am sure, it will help many, if not all, with this new integrated experience. Or as Uber explains in the press release:
“Every year, 3.6 million Americans miss doctor appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation. No-show rates are as high as 30% nationwide.”
Again, this one positive service doesn’t absolve Uber for their bad behavior in the past. As a frequent critic of the company and its lack of humanness, I am okay in taking a moment, and applauding a good thing, when I see one. I hope Lyft joins the party too. And let’s make sure, the narrative doesn’t shape the reality — which is always a better approach anyway.