Getting to the emergency room could be a matter of life and death, and the help paramedics can provide on the way there can be critical. But more people are hopping into an Uber for a ride, according to a new study just released this week.
"I think it's a dangerous thing for Uber to replace ambulances," said Johnathon Bobbit-Miller of Brewster Ambulance Service in Weymouth. "Paramedics and EMTs are professionals. They're able to monitor things like blood pressure. They can see if someone is having a heart attack."
The study, authored by Leon Moskatel and David Slusky, analyzes communities where Uber is available. In those communities, the researchers found that ambulance usage rates are down by at least 7 percent.
Researchers indicate one reason could be because it's cheaper. Ambulance rides could cost thousands of dollars, depending on insurance.
"Your life is more important than the cost of an ambulance trip," said Dr. Paul Kivela, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "I'm not sure it's the best idea to take Uber."
Kivela says a patient may think their symptoms aren't that serious, but may need immediate attention that a paramedic, not an Uber driver, can provide.
"A lot of patients, if they have chest pain, it might be indigestion, but this could easily be a heart attack," said Kivela. "Or any other life-threatening condition."
Bobbit-Miller says Uber could be useful in cases where patients are tying up emergency services and emergency rooms.
"Oftentimes, patients go to the hospital when they should be going to either urgent care or their primary care physician," said Bobbit-Miller. "So that's a perfect thing for Uber to do."
An Uber spokesperson told NBC Boston,
"We're grateful our service has helped people get to where they're going when they need it the most," an Uber spokesperson told NBC Boston. "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 encourage people to call 911."
"I'm not sure an Uber driver would want someone bleeding in the back of their vehicle, nor would they want someone in the back suddenly dying from a heart attack," Kivela added.