Even before COVID-19, policy makers and visionaries were exploring opportunities to apply mobility innovations to improve public health access. A report published in 2020 identified that in 2017, 5.8 million persons in the United States delayed medical care because they did not have transportation. The pandemic only heightened the need for providing better options for seniors, people with disabilities, and the rest of the community. Several Ann Arbor area companies are addressing these needs in a variety of ways.
One of Ann Arbor’s tech companies helping provide safe transportation to and from COVID-19 vaccination appointments is Feonix – Mobility Rising. Feonix is the tech operator for the Vaccinate Washtenaw program which is designed to provide rapid appointment booking information and free transportation for Washtenaw County residents for whom transportation is a barrier to accessing the vaccine. The program is funded through a grant from Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.
Another way to improve access to healthcare has been by through investing more in telehealth services. Workit Health, another Ann Arbor-based company is a virtual provider of substance use disorder care. The company recognizes that people face many barriers to receiving the proper care they need when dealing with addition. This includes having access to transportation, being unable to leave their job or loved ones for a thirty-day rehab program, or affording the out-of-pocket costs associated with inpatient programs. Workit Health brings customized addiction care to the privacy of home, combining research-backed therapeutic programming with FDA-approved medication. Workit Health recently raised $12 million in its latest funding round led by FirstMark Capital and received the Entrepreneurial Services of the Year award at Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual meeting.
IN-HOSPITAL DELIVERY ROBOTS
Shadi Mere, founder of Bedestrian developed autonomous delivery robots that can improve efficiency around delivering medical supplies and pharmaceuticals in hospitals along with reduced burden on medical staff and enhanced patient experience. The company’s robots are currently deployed at Beaumont Hospital and the Henry Ford Health System. Before the pandemic, the hospitals they were working with asked about efficiency and monetary savings that could be had while delivering medicines within hospitals and between hospital buildings. The pandemic presented a different solution which was the robots’ ability to reduce exposure to COVID for the medical staff. Bedestrian also enhanced its robots with UV disinfecting pods and improved insulation to ensure the robots wouldn’t themselves become carriers of airborne infections.
These are just a few examples of the mobility companies in the Ann Arbor region that are improving public health. The reach of these services and innovations span from local to global and have a profound impact on the lives of individuals and communities.