More people are choosing Ubers, Lyfts over ambulances during medical emergencies

Posted at 9:55 AM, May 20, 2019

DETROIT — More and more people are choosing to skip a conventional 911 call and ambulance ride during medical emergencies in favor of using Uber or Lyft — a decision experts say puts lives at risk.

“I needed a ride," said Michael Smith, who used and Uber during a recent emergency. "They were the fastest one that came.”

Smith says when he experienced a medical emergency, he also called other forms of transportation.

“I called Checker cab, Uber, 911 – the first one who came would take me to the hospital and (Uber was) there first,” Smith said.

According to Smith, his decision made sense for speed.

“I was doing it because I had a medical emergency," he said. "They were there within eight minutes. The guy kept talking to me and stuff. I was going in and out of consciousness. He was keeping me up. They took me to Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit.”

Data shows Smith is among a growing crowd of people making the same choice. As mentioned in a recent New York Times article, ambulance use is declining across the country by roughly 7% when Uber enters a city.

“My experience a few weeks ago was worth a 5-star review,” Smith said.

However, not everyone agrees with the decision, citing safety issues.

“They’re not medically trained," said Dr. Rose Kuo at the Ascension Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mihcigan. "They don’t have the medical equipment in their cars. If it is life and death, I would say you definitely need an ambulance. The EMTs and paramedics are trained to deal with any situation."

Beyond the specialized training of first responders, Kuo says lights and sirens, along with the necessary lifesaving equipment, are things you won’t find in an Uber or Lyft.

“Kits to start IVs, fluids, important life saving medications if you were to go into cardiac arrest. Monitors to monitor your vital signs," Kuo said.

However, she does acknowledge the lower cost option appealing to many who are fearful of getting a high bill.

“Ambulances are pretty expensive," Kuo said. "Especially if you are self paying or don’t have insurance. People mostly do it for financial reasons."