Laura Fleet created SendaRide, which provides door-to-door medical transportation for patients, a need she encountered when she was recovering from surgery. Just six years later, her company is now serving clients in eight states.
Sometimes the best ideas come when you’re down and out, and flat on your back. For Laura Fleet, that time was five years ago, after spine surgery, when she was navigating both recovery and traveling to and from physical therapy sessions.
First, she scheduled a ride with an existing rideshare company. When the driver arrived, she couldn’t hobble out of her front door in time. The driver, assuming she was a no-show, canceled the ride and left.
Then, Fleet tried a taxi. That driver waited patiently for her but didn’t step out of the car to take her arm, and she needed assistance getting from her front door to the car.
“When I was in the cab I thought, ‘Wow, this doesn’t feel right for a vulnerable person,’” Fleet said. “I can’t drive because my reflexes are compromised on pain medication, and I don’t know anything about the driver. Are they background checked?”
Finally, Fleet arranged a wheelchair-accessible van, which proved to be too much.
“I told my husband, ‘There needs to be an app for this,’ and he said, ‘Well, create it.’ It was one of those sarcastic marriage conversations,” Fleet said, with a smile.
David Fleet’s casual comment planted a seed.
“I spent the rest of my recovery kind of white boarding what it would look like from, selfishly, my perspective as a patient and rider in the back seat,” she said.
Drawing from 20 years experience as a healthcare attorney, Fleet launched SendaRide, a door-to-door nonemergency medical transportation company in 2016. Fleet’s fleet is distinctively different from other rideshare options. The drivers (called “care partners”) undergo extensive training and background checks. All rides are recorded and can be broadcast live to loved ones through the app.
In addition, care partners know how to navigate the ins and outs of various health facilities, and the booking process includes a series of questions to ensure specific rider needs are met. Need someone who speaks Spanish, is COVID vaccinated, and can accommodate a service pet and an oxygen tank? No problem.
“Our drivers are not driving around town wondering when their app is going to ‘ding’ that they have a ride,” Fleet said. “Rather, they are notified when they are best matched to a rider. We have lots of riders that would like the same driver every day, because they establish great friendships.”
One longtime customer is Valir Health in Oklahoma City.
“We started using SendaRide four years ago to provide HIPPA-compliant, door-to-door transport service to our seniors,” said David Williams, manager of transportation services for Valir Health. “With easy booking and ride tracking through their proprietary web portal – and excellent customer service – they continue to be a great resource for us.”
With an emphasis on delivering positive experiences, SendaRide has expanded from Oklahoma City and Tulsa to metropolitan areas in Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
“I didn’t anticipate it would become this big of a solution, but these expansions to other states were all by word of mouth – by people who have used us and moved on to another state or hospital,” Fleet said.
In addition to serving those undergoing therapy sessions or medical procedures, SendaRide’s customer base includes the elderly, Alzheimer patients, the blind, and those with dementia, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
“We provide a good chain of custody, if you will,” Fleet said. “Ninety-seven percent of our rides are booked by hospitals, health clinics and physical therapy clinics because they want to make sure the patients are able to arrive to their appointment.”