Ambulance use is dipping as Uber and other ride-hailing services continue to permeate an ever-growing swath of the United States, a study found.
The trend was examined in 766 cities in 43 states where Uber began service from 2013 to 2015, in a study co-authored by David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, and Dr. Leon Moskatel, an internist at San Diego’s Scripps Mercy Hospital.
Despite using research methodologies to arrive at the “most conservative” numbers, Slusky and Moskatel found the entry of UberX into the market resulted in "at least" a 7 percent decline of ambulance volume.
“My guess is it will go up a little bit and stabilize at 10 to 15 percent as Uber continues to expand as an alternative for people,’’ Moskatel told the Mercury News.
A cost-benefit analysis may play into people’s decision to search for an Uber driver — often a cheaper option — instead of dialing 911, according to the researchers.
“Even as it provides a critical service in the emergency medical services (EMS) framework, modern ambulance transportation has grown ever costlier,” the researchers wrote. “Emergency medical transport in an ambulance can easily exceed over a thousand dollars, usually with great surprise to the patient — and with insurance often only partially covering the expense or outright refusing to pay for transport deemed not medically necessary.”
It’s also likely that patients assess their conditions and, determining how sick they feel, either call an ambulance or an Uber, according to the Mercury News.
However, Paul Kivela, an ER doctor at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, California and medical director of a Solano County ambulance company, said that move is a risky one.
“A paramedic has the training and the ability to deliver life-saving care en route,” Kivela told the newspaper. “What I really have a hard time believing is an Uber driver is going to attend to you.”
Uber did not participate in this study, and a company spokesman echoed Kivela’s point.
“We’re grateful our service has helped people get to where they’re going when they need it the most,” Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun told the Mercury News. “However, it’s important to note that Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement or medical professionals. In the event of any medical emergency, we always encourage people to call 911.”