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On December 17, CBS News reported that “more people appear to be choosing to use an Uber for rides to the hospital” versus calling an ambulance. David Slusky, assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas and co-author Leon Moskatel studied ambulance usage rates from more than 750 U.S. cities nationwide since Uber was introduced in those markets between the 2013 and 2015.

The takeaways:

Ambulance use was reduced significantly with conservative calculations, so far, yielding a 7% decrease. The study estimated that this would level off at 10 to 15% as Uber and alternatives expand their services.

“Uber is a good service for those low-risk patients who can’t drive themselves to the emergency room,” commented Paul Kivela, president of the 37,000-member American College of Emergency Physicians. “But many people, he said, may not be able to differentiate between a life-threatening emergency and an innocuous medical issue. So, he said, calling 911 is always the safest bet.”

Cost is another factor. An ambulance ride can cost “thousands of dollars” and people must weigh both factors of illness and costs.
Yet another consideration is waiting time. Both Uber and Lyft can predict the time of arrival of their cars and may be only a few minutes away, whereas an ambulance may take several times longer to arrive.

Uber, Lyft and others have cautioned that while they are grateful to serve, they are not substitutes for law enforcement or medical services.

The full study is available here: