Uber to the doctor? Edney teases MSDH contract with ride-share app for clinic transport

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

There’s no Uber in Rolling Fork, Mississippi — but if Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney has his way, that could soon change.

While speaking with the Warren County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Edney, a Vicksburg resident, discussed clinical transportation needs in the region. The Warren County Health Department is one of few clinic sites in the western part of the state and serves much of the surrounding area, especially the South Delta.

“We’ve gotten permission from a federal funder to go into a contract with Uber statewide, and that will allow us to use those funds to bring people to us, to the Warren County Health Department, that don’t have transportation,” Edney said. “If someone in Rolling Fork needs to get their vaccinations done, but Sharkey County is closed, we’ll bring them to Warren County and we’ll pay for it and we’ll pick them up and get them home.”

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Edney did not state the amount of funding necessary to implement the program or how many Uber drivers would be needed to sustain it. However, he did say the end goal is to provide public health access to every county in Mississippi five days a week.

In addition to the proposed contract with rideshare app Uber, Edney said the Mississippi State Department of Health is also taking an aggressive approach to telehealth to fulfill his mission of improving health outcomes in the state.

“We’re leveraging telehealth coming out of the pandemic in an aggressive fashion, taking lessons learned in the pandemic response for preventative and public health,” he said. “Using these new strategies, there’s an awful lot of money on the table for us, just what we do every day in that wonderful little building (the Warren County Supervisors) provide for us. Just providing real-world practice and clinic operation and doing a better job with billing and revenue generation.”

Edney said he understands skepticism around the idea of national rideshare apps serving remote areas of the state, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

“People say, ‘There’s no Uber in Rolling Fork.’ There’s not today, but there will be — especially as I convince mental health and DHS and CPS to join in,” he said. “We’ll have a little economic development thing going on throughout the state, creating jobs.”