By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
The best ideas for new companies come from people who deeply understand an industry, recognize a problem, and then talk with potential customers.
That’s the back story to SendaRide, an Oklahoma startup that provides customized, concierge, nonemergency medical transportation and transportation for individuals and senior citizens.
The company was built from the ground up by founder, Laura Fleet, who has practiced health care law for twenty-plus years. In both her career and from her own family’s experiences, she has seen the delivery of health care from many perspectives.
“Health care delivery is fragmented in many ways,” Fleet said, “and one of those is transportation. From my personal experience and from what I know about the health care industry, there had to be a better way to get back and forth to medical appointments. We started this company with the question: how do we provide transportation that meets the needs of the health care industry?”
Fleet contracted an outstanding team of software developers and now, less than two years later, SendaRide is serving customers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The service is accessed through an iPhone app for individuals or through an easily customized dashboard for medical or extended care facilities that coordinate transportation for their patients and residents.
SendaRide is significantly different from other ride-share companies. This isn’t about using an app to order a pickup by a random driver in 10 minutes or less. The company’s target market is scheduled transportation booked for people who cannot book it for themselves — for example, senior citizens and nonemergency medical patients.
The clearest differentiator between SendaRide and the typical ride-share paradigm is the caliber and background of their drivers, who they call Care Partners. Unlike typical ride-share companies, SendaRide care partners are specifically recruited from the health care and community services industries — EMTs, licensed and practical nurses, retired firefighters, veterans, schoolteachers, to name a few. Most drivers are over 40, with a nearly equal mix of women and men.
“We have a very different group of drivers,” said Fleet. “We are transporting a vulnerable and fragile population. This population is not about expediency, which is the premise behind other ride-share businesses. Our Care Partners are about safety and compassionate, kindly treatment.”
SendaRide is expanding service to more medical facilities and is actively hiring Care Partners in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The company is adding features to the application, making the process more seamless with hospitals, and integrating the application with electronic health records systems.
Fleet said that she didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur.
“I never in a million years imagined myself starting up a technology company, but I took this leap of faith. Now I am working with these amazing, endearing, wonderful people that I would put in the care of any family member. Together we are solving a barrier to accessing health care in settings across the country.”
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.