Last year, we wrote about how autonomous driving will impact the healthcare industry in the future. Now that Uber’s self-driving cars have already hit the streets in Pittsburgh, it turns out the future is arriving much faster than expected. Uber’s move represents just the latest salvo in a rapidly evolving “transportation cloud” in which our culture of ubiquitous car ownership is about to be disrupted. The autonomous car, long the province of science fiction movies, is now moving forward at an accelerated pace.

Many industries are going to feel the impact of these changes, especially the healthcare system. Here are five areas in which autonomous driving services are poised to radically disrupt healthcare.

1. Autonomous aging

For an increasingly aging population, hands-free autonomous driving is going to offer a tremendous extension of freedom and mobility, as well as more seamless and worry-free access to care providers. Just being able to simply get to the market and pharmacy on their own will be tremendously beneficial for otherwise housebound seniors.

2. Fewer accidents and quicker emergency response

Autonomous driving holds the promise of fewer accidents, which will obviously result in fewer deaths and injuries on the road. Not only that, but drivers who suffer from sudden illness while driving will be able to have their car take them directly to the emergency room. For example, in August, a Tesla owner suffered a painful and potentially deadly pulmonary embolism while driving. Fortunately, the driver was able to instruct his car to take him to the nearest emergency room. The car successfully navigated the 20 miles to the hospital where he was able to obtain life saving treatment.

3. Disabilities transformed

For persons with disabilities, autonomous vehicles will literally be life-altering. In fact, the first demo of a Google driverless car on public streets was with a blind person behind the wheel.

4. Healthcare services on-demand

As the transportation cloud transforms how we move about, an equally powerful “healthcare cloud” will provide near instantaneous access to healthcare services, based on passive monitoring and continuous feedback. Backed by Uber-like scheduling platforms, healthcare professionals will be more efficient based on smart appointment algorithms, mobile reminders, and decreased patient wait times.

Medstar Health, the largest non-profit system in Maryland has already partnered with Uber to help its patients get to and from appointments. Michael Ruiz, MedStar vice president and chief digital officer notes that “Patients expect the same level of seamless integration in healthcare as they do in other aspects of their everyday life. Our partnership with Uber is one small step toward a future where technology-enabled patient engagement rivals other industries that have been disrupted by digital technology.”

If and when you do need emergency services, cloud-based transportation will have the ambulance at your house in seconds. Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, notes that “if we can get you a car in five minutes, we can get you anything in five minutes.”

5. Commuting actually becomes therapeutic

With people no longer chained behind the wheel, commute time can include preventative treatment and inspiration on the way to work in the morning, and relaxation and decompression on the way home. Vitals signs can be monitored from the car seat, and recommendations made for meals, exercise, etc. Medication reminders can also be reviewed during the drive, as well as Skype calls with coaches and care providers.

Transportation and healthcare are on a full speed collision course of radical change, and the impact is going to be transformative for both patients and providers. There will be inevitable disruptions to existing businesses and occupations as these changes take place, but new opportunities will arise as well.

When we do need to interact directly with healthcare providers, the experience of getting there and back will be far less time-consuming and stressful. Most of all, for the elderly and disabled, the rapidly evolving transportation cloud is going to provide new levels of mobility and quality of life. mHealth is about to take on an entirely new and powerful meaning.

This post was originally published on Cadient’s Results in Action blog.

Jim Walker

Jim Walker

Jim Walker is Director, Marketing Strategy at Cadient, a Cognizant Company. Jim provides innovative marketing insights for a wide range of clients,... Read more

  • Kannan Sreedhar

    I had never thought commuting becoming therapeutic! Thanks for the blog – certainly is making me think differently regarding the potential of autonomous vehicles to improve healthcare.