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Uber to the ER: Surge in people using ridesharing instead of ambulances

Posted at 9:39 PM, Dec 20, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Every month, hundreds of people use ambulances to go to the Emergency Room. 

But now, according to one University of Kansas associate professor, people are opting for ride-sharing services, such as Uber, instead of ambulances. 

David Slusky co-authored a research paper released Wednesday, which found ambulance usage declined when Uber entered the market. The research was based on an analysis of 766 U.S. cities in 43 states. 

“We looked at each city relative to itself before Uber entered the market. For example, a city that started out low is going to be considered relative to that already low level,” said Slusky. 

On average, he said ambulance usage rates dropped at least 7 percent whenever Uber entered the market. 

And one reason could be cost. Ambulance trips can cost anywhere from $300 to more than $1,000.

“For something that isn’t an immediate emergency but you really need to be seen in the emergency room in the next several hours, this represents an enormous savings with not necessarily any health consequences,” said Slusky. 

Brandy Granados told 41 Action News she opted for Uber last year when she was short of breath. The Kansas City mother said she did not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a ride to the Emergency Room. 

“It cost six bucks. [Uber] got me there within 10 minutes,” she said. 

But health experts warn ride-sharing services should not be used for emergencies. They say minutes or seconds can make a difference. For example, an ambulance can run a red light or stop sign but an Uber cannot. 

In a statement to 41 Action News, Uber said: 

"We're grateful our service has helped people get to where they're going when they need it the most. 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.