People are increasingly using ride-hailing services to get to the emergency room

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have revolutionized public transportation for millions, especially in densely populated areas. The impact these platforms have had on things like traffic and car ownership was predictable but it’s the unforeseen influences that can be the most concerning.

Take sick people, for example.

As BuzzFeed highlights in a recent story, people are increasingly calling on ride-sharing services for transport to the emergency room. It’s a much cheaper alternative versus calling for an ambulance and in many instances, an Uber or Lyft can get you to a hospital faster than emergency services could for the simple fact that they’re more plentiful and thus, likely to be able to get to you faster.

The problem, of course, is that ride-hailing drivers aren’t trained medical professionals. They’re simply contract laborers that are looking to make a few extra bucks on a part-time basis. By agreeing to usher sick people to get emergency services, drivers also unknowing assume a lot of risk.

Legal professor and gig economy observer Veena Dubal told BuzzFeed that as a driver, you’re not liable if you refuse to take a passenger on a trip. “You’re under no legal obligation to care for them until they get in your car, and then you’re a proprietor conducting business.”

Then there’s the issue of illness. If a passenger requesting a ride to the hospital is contagious, the driver and perhaps subsequent riders could be at risk of also getting sick. Worse yet, it may not even be intentional. BuzzFeed highlights one driver that picked up a patient at the hospital whose colostomy bag “exploded on the way home.” Another driver had to clean their backseat after driving a woman in labor to the hospital.

It’s worth noting that ride-hailing services didn’t create this problem – they just happen to be an affordable way around expensive emergency medical transportation. Ambulance rides can cost several hundreds or even thousands of dollars, even for those with health insurance. When faced with spending a few bucks or a few thousand for a ride, can you really blame people for taking the cheaper route?

Unforeseen issues like this will continue to crop up around ride-sharing platforms although in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be dealing with a bevy of unexpected matters relating to autonomous driving technology.

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senketsu

I feel their financial pain. I have driven myself to medical care with a collapsed lung (pneumothorax), on another occasion 3 broken ribs (11, 10 and 9, same side, one blow), even took public transit once to get to the hospital when one of my kidneys was passing blood (extremely painful, but in episodes).
Of course I was unsure of what exactly was wrong on my way there, but there was no doubt at all at the cost of an ambulance.
 
D

davislane1

I guess a bus or subway are never used by folks who need an ER.
Go into medical distress in a bus or subway (not including potential wait time) and they're going to call EMS to the scene and you're gonna get the bill you were trying to avoid.
 
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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Yeah, the ambulance companies are just another part of the over all medical industry problem where profit is way ahead of patient care ......
 
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Vulcanproject

TS Evangelist
One benefit to being Canadian.... that ambulance ride is free....
No it's not "free", you pay for it every time you pay a tax, the difference is your government has forced the other 33 million Canadians to also pay for your medical expenses.
Oh no, the horror of having healthcare freely available for every lawful citizen. What an evil idea!

As an aside Uber could really put a good spin on this. If the patient is still alive they can call their service a private ambulance, and if they are dead before they make it to a hospital they can just say they are a hearse.

Easy way to dodge the rules in those countries that are revoking their taxicab licenses. The ones that don't have universal healthcare anyway....
 
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GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
But at least they're not paying a massive profit gouge to the privately owned ambulance company.
Most ambulance services in the USA are run by the city/county or are volunteer in rural areas (part of the volunteer fire department), urban areas have both public and private ambulances.
 

GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
Oh no, the horror of having healthcare freely available for every lawful citizen. What an evil idea!
Emergency services are available for all people in the united states, even illegal immigrants, hospitals are required to treat a person in a emergency situation. And you don't have to pay, there's around 5 different ways to get out of paying your emergency room bill with no penalty to you, which then drives the cost up for those that would pay it.

Again it's not free in Canada, it's part of the taxes, which make american taxes look like child's plays for a middle class family. Then you have the wait times in Canada, most wealthy Canadians in southern Alberta come to my hospital since they can drive down on a Monday morning have a MRI that afternoon, and drive home the next day, or wait 2-3 months to have one in Canada.

The only thing that seem to horrify millions of people is having to be physically and financially responsible for themselves, almost like they need to grow up one day and take care of themselves.
 

Vulcanproject

TS Evangelist
Emergency services are available for all wealthy people in the united states
FTFY.

Just as a reminder you're posting on an article about emergency patients taking ubers to hospital at least partly (probably largely) because ambulances are expensive.
 
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GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
FTFY.

Just as a reminder you're posting on an article about emergency patients taking ubers to hospital at least partly (probably largely) because ambulances are expensive.
I have no idea why they are, they should have healthcare, what was all that healthcare broo haha about 8 years ago, healthcare for all? Affordable care act I believe they called it, why isn't that working then? If they are taking a uber to the hospital for financial reasons alone that's on them, like I said they have few ways of actually making you pay for the trip so why not use it.
 

noel24

TS Evangelist
Social health insurance: everyone chipin' in for this basic help to person in need. Something that communists came up with, that's free 'Murica couldn't come up with until this day..
 

GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
Social health insurance: everyone chipin' in for this basic help to person in need. Something that communists came up with, that's free 'Murica couldn't come up with until this day..
That's because you had( yes had, we no longer have that freedom) the freedom to choose how you spent the money you earned, one of the options you had was to donate that money to helping those that needed it, social healthcare isn't chipping it since you have no say in it. Seeing how the USA is one of the most charitable nations in the world I'm sure the needy would have been helped.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
One benefit to being Canadian.... that ambulance ride is free....
No it's not "free", you pay for it every time you pay a tax, the difference is your government has forced the other 33 million Canadians to also pay for your medical expenses.
Yes and the government also pays much much less per ambulance ride than any American does. When you have everyone in a single massive pool it's buying power drives the prices of services down. Not to mention, there is no insurance company taking 30% off the top and they regulate the price of medical services in Canada.

Social health insurance: everyone chipin' in for this basic help to person in need. Something that communists came up with, that's free 'Murica couldn't come up with until this day..
That's because you had( yes had, we no longer have that freedom) the freedom to choose how you spent the money you earned, one of the options you had was to donate that money to helping those that needed it, social healthcare isn't chipping it since you have no say in it. Seeing how the USA is one of the most charitable nations in the world I'm sure the needy would have been helped.
lol, there is no such freedom when it comes to healthcare. People need healthcare, period. You can't choose not to get it. These people taking an uber illustrate the larger issue with healthcare in America, people can't afford it.

FYI the average American spends more on less healthcare as a percentage of their annual income than a Canadian will. Canadians undoubtedly spend less in tax dollars on health care and don't have to worry about putting a hospital visit off because it could bankrupt them. Living in fear of a hospital bill isn't freedom.
 
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mailpup

TS Special Forces
While I understand the cost aspect of ambulance transportation and for some it is not an option, in a life threatening emergency there is risk involved with not using ambulance or fire/paramedic transportation. The ambulance is not just simple transportation. If it was, then, sure, any vehicle can get you there, eventually. But an ambulance has trained EMTs aboard to stabilize you and help you if something goes south during the ride. They can communicate with doctors if they need assistance. Most other means of transportation cannot. Emergency vehicles can usually get to a hospital faster because they can go through red lights (with due allowance for safety). Also, they can radio ahead to the destination hospital so they will be ready for you, saving precious seconds or minutes. When they arrive at the hospital, they get to go right to the emergency entrance and if your condition warrants, they can start treatment quickly.

When you take Uber you may have to start in the waiting room and lose time while staff triages you. Also, does the Uber driver know where the hospital ER is without wasting time looking it up? Will he/she know if a given ER is slammed and it would be better to go to an alternate location? Some hospitals have even closed their emergency rooms. If it's really an emergency, it is not worth it to me to save the money but risk dying on the way. Of course, I'm talking about life threatening illness or injury. If it's non life threatening, you probably don't need an ambulance in the first place. It may be urgent but not an emergency. In some cases you are better off going to an urgent care facility instead. Of course you have free will and can use any means you choose to get to a hospital. Yes, no doubt lots of people get to the emergency room without incident without using an ambulance but all I'm saying in a serious emergency it can be risky because it's not just a ride.

I also realize that in small towns some of what I said doesn't apply but you still have to weigh the risk.
 

Prosercunus

TS Maniac
One benefit to being Canadian.... that ambulance ride is free....
No it's not "free", you pay for it every time you pay a tax, the difference is your government has forced the other 33 million Canadians to also pay for your medical expenses.
Oh no, the horror of having healthcare freely available for every lawful citizen. What an evil idea!

As an aside Uber could really put a good spin on this. If the patient is still alive they can call their service a private ambulance, and if they are dead before they make it to a hospital they can just say they are a hearse.

Easy way to dodge the rules in those countries that are revoking their taxicab licenses. The ones that don't have universal healthcare anyway....
I don't think that is what he is saying at all. He is saying calling it free is misleading and not in the least bit true and kind of offensive to those that pay a lot of taxes to cover their fellow countrymen. You can make a moral argument all day long on rather this is right or wrong but that's not the point in the least.

Canada has a decent system but there are flaws. Plenty of people cross the border into America to get treatments if they can afford it because time can be a factor and it can be a difference between life and death. America also has some of the best medical facilities and treatments in the world, our issue has never been lack of good healthcare, it's always been about affordability and we are on the other extreme spectrum in the states where cost is insane.
 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
I don't think that is what he is saying at all. He is saying calling it free is misleading and not in the least bit true and kind of offensive to those that pay a lot of taxes to cover their fellow countrymen. You can make a moral argument all day long on rather this is right or wrong but that's not the point in the least.

Canada has a decent system but there are flaws. Plenty of people cross the border into America to get treatments if they can afford it because time can be a factor and it can be a difference between life and death. America also has some of the best medical facilities and treatments in the world, our issue has never been lack of good healthcare, it's always been about affordability and we are on the other extreme spectrum in the states where cost is insane.
I didn't mean for my one simple line to be so inflammatory.... If you're Canadian, you pay higher taxes - not as bad as Europe, but still higher than the US... but average after-tax income is fairly similar.... Canada's after-tax income was approximately $75,000, where the US BEFORE-TAX income was about $75,000... now since CAD is equal to 80 cents on the US dollar, that roughly equates to the same.... it varies from state to state...

What you get for your tax dollars is considerably different... The US has 50 different states, and tax dollars are spent wildly differently depending on the location, climate, demographics, etc...

A lot of Canadian taxes are spent on a disproportionate few, as we have people living in the far north where it is CRAZY expensive to feed, transport, educate, etc... Our road systems also require far more money, as extreme weather makes repairs an almost constant expense...

We don't have "free" healthcare.... same as we don't have "free" education.... but since you have to pay your taxes regardless of whether you use these services, it IS effectively free....as in, "no added charge"...
 

Prosercunus

TS Maniac
I didn't mean for my one simple line to be so inflammatory.... If you're Canadian, you pay higher taxes - not as bad as Europe, but still higher than the US... but average after-tax income is fairly similar.... Canada's after-tax income was approximately $75,000, where the US BEFORE-TAX income was about $75,000... now since CAD is equal to 80 cents on the US dollar, that roughly equates to the same.... it varies from state to state...

What you get for your tax dollars is considerably different... The US has 50 different states, and tax dollars are spent wildly differently depending on the location, climate, demographics, etc...

A lot of Canadian taxes are spent on a disproportionate few, as we have people living in the far north where it is CRAZY expensive to feed, transport, educate, etc... Our road systems also require far more money, as extreme weather makes repairs an almost constant expense...

We don't have "free" healthcare.... same as we don't have "free" education.... but since you have to pay your taxes regardless of whether you use these services, it IS effectively free....as in, "no added charge"...
Definitely and ultimately even though I am a low taxation kinda guy I acknowledge that letting insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies set rates is a huge injustice. The trick is trying to make things affordable and not destroy the system while doing so.