Study: Uber reduces ambulance usage nationwide

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Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A study by a pair of university researchers has concluded that Uber and other ride-booking services have caused a drop in ambulance usage nationwide, The San Jose Mercury News reported.

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research paper released Wednesday is believed to be the first study to measure the impact of Uber and other ride-booking services. The study used data from 766 cities across 43 states from 2013 through 2015, the Mercury News reported.

The paper was written by David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, and Dr. Leon Moskatel, an internist at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. They compared ambulance volumes before and after Uber became available in each city and found that the usage rate had dropped significantly, the Mercury News reported.

Slusky said after using different methodologies to obtain the “most conservative” decline in ambulance usage, the researchers calculated the drop to be “at least” 7 percent.

“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 said.

Slusky said he and Moskatel are submitting the paper to journals for peer review, the Mercury News reported.

Uber, based in San Francisco, quickly downplayed the idea that hailing an Uber driver is an acceptable substitute for calling an ambulance.

“We’re grateful our service has helped people get to where they’re going when they need it the most,” company spokesman Andrew Hasbun said. “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.”

Moskatel, however, said many patients “tend to be pretty good at assessing their state and how quickly they need to come in and how sick they are.”

The researchers, however, insisted that ride-booking services such as Uber and San Francisco-based Lyft can sometimes be the best way to get to the hospital in a hurry.

Previous research, Moskatel said, “suggests that a fair number of people are using ambulances to get to the hospital because they simply don’t have another way to get there’’ -- particularly those who live in areas with limited taxi service.

And, Slusky added, with health care taking a big chunk out of most people’s budgets, many consumers these days have to weigh a few factors before calling an ambulance.

“They have to think about their health -- and what it’s going to cost me,” he told the Mercury News. “And for many of us with high-deductible plans, an ambulance ride would cost thousands of dollars.’’

Because Uber was not involved in the study, Moskatel had to map all the dates the company entered a certain market, based only on the company’s public announcements, the Mercury News reported.

Ambulance rates were obtained from the National Emergency Medical Services Information System, a national repository for emergency medical services data.

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