Study claims more people are hailing an Uber over an ambulance

(KGTV) - When it comes to an emergency, do you call 9-1-1 or open up your favorite ride-sharing app?

A study released this week claims more people may be hailing the nearest Uber or Lyft instead of calling for an ambulance.

The study examined ambulance usage in 766 U.S. cities in 43 states from 2013 to 2015 - around the same time Uber and other ride-sharing services entered the market. During this time, the study found a drop in ambulance usage.

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The study's co-authors David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, and Leon Moskatel, an internist at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, believe Uber's entry into a city, "reduced the per capital ambulance volume by at least 7 percent."

The authors wrote that ambulance use has dropped in part because patients "lack of other means of transportation," and that patients would use "an alternate means of transport if one existed."

That's where they believe Uber enters the mix.

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"In addition, while ambulances typically route to the closest hospital, ride-sharing services allow the patient to choose to which hospital they present, a potentially important factor as these facilities may have differing results for the same illness, with higher-cost hospitals associated with better outcomes," the report said.

The full report can be read here.

The report said expensive charges to patients also deter ambulance use saying, "consuming substituting to a cheaper alternative when possible would free up resources to be spent more efficiently."

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"Overall, our results suggest that Uber entry into a city, in addition to the more straightforward consequences found by others, has this additional positive impact on unnecessary ambulance usage," according to the report.

The study used ambulance rates from National Emergency Medical Services Information System and Uber data of when the service entered the market.

Despite the findings, Uber is distancing itself from the potential effect on ambulance usage.

"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."

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