Study: More people turning to ride-sharing to get to the hospital

AP file photo

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Ride-sharing services are becoming more and more popular and sometimes people are using them in unexpected ways.

For example: A new study indicates that when Uber comes to an area, some people will opt to use ride-sharing instead of an ambulance to get to the hospital.

An ambulance contains some of the most sophisticated medical technology available and it’s expensive, as is the ambulance ride itself.

Whether it’s a county-run service like Wake EMS, or a private ambulance, taking a ride in one is likely to cost at least $500 dollars or more.


If you need an ambulance in Wake County, there is a way to reduce that cost.

The county offers a pre-paid subscription service deal where if you pay $60 dollars a year, your entire household is covered for the cost of an ambulance ride for a year.

But, that subscription deal only covers Wake County, Eastern Wake, Apex and Cary EMS services. For others living outside those areas, there is no ambulance ride discount.

That’s where Uber may come in.

A new study by the University of Kansas examined what happened to ambulance rides when Uber comes to an area. It looked at 766 cities, including Raleigh, and concluded when Uber comes to an area, a lot of folks will opt use that instead of an ambulance to get to the hospital.

“Ambulance volume declined at least seven percent when Uber entered the market,” says professor David Slusky of the University of Kansas. He co-authored the study.

In Wake County, officials say Uber use in place of ambulances is hard to quantify.

“The growth (in ambulance calls) last year versus this year is slower than the previous year, but it’s really hard to say any one thing is affecting that,” says assistant chief Jeff Hammerstein of Wake County EMS.

The study says many people choose Uber to take to them to hospital to cut expenses in cases of non-emergency situations.

“What we are saying, is that in many situations, this actually might be a more cost effective way without large medical consequences,” said Slusky.

Some folks CBS North Carolina spoke with think that could work in some instances.

“Depending on what a person needs, they could take an Uber to the hospital,’’ said Luis Marazzi. “It might be faster if it’s not serious.”

But, EMS officials warn, deciding what is a medical necessity is can be tricky.

“Uber is transportation. EMS is the beginning of medical care with a transportation option. That’s an important thing to consider,” said Hammerstein.

He says you can always call EMS to evaluate your condition before deciding how to get to the hospital.

“Any time we respond, we may evaluate and decide you don’t need further service or don’t need for us to transport you to the hospital,” says Hammerstein. He says what you want to avoid is being in a ride-sharing vehicle if your condition starts to deteriorate or you suddenly need medical management.

In the case of a county service like Wake EMS, the fees charged only cover costs. The county government doesn’t make a profit on its ambulance service.

If you want to learn more about how much a ride in a Wake County ambulance will cost you use this link which outlines all the fees the county charges for medical care via ambulance.


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