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Patients opting for Uber, Lyft over ambulance to the ER

The rise of transportation companies Uber and Lyft has spurred a new trend: Millions of Americans now use the on-demand ride apps to get themselves to the emergency room instead of ambulances, reports STAT.

An online chatroom for Uber drivers includes numerous accounts of trips to the ER for riders in the backseat with cuts, broken bones, anaphylaxis or asthma attacks, according to the report. Experts say the trend is influenced by a few factors, including ride-hailing companies' prices being significantly cheaper and more predictable than those for ambulance services. Ubers and Lyfts also enable ailing riders to choose which hospital they go to.

However, the trend also creates significant risks for patients, the drivers and even the companies who employ them. This has prompted some drivers to refuse to complete the ride. In the online chatroom, drivers gave reasons like not wanting to get blood on their car seats or have to deal with a dead body in their car. Others are wary of picking up the responsibilities of trained EMTs.

A Boston-area driver for Uber and Lyft told STAT, "The women tell me their friend is not feeling well, and they want me to take them to the emergency room. I told them no and to just call 911. I have to respect the rules of the road; I can't speed like an ambulance. And there's definitely a liability thing," he added. "If anything happened to the guy, it's definitely on me and the insurance I have to carry."

Uber's official position is that riders should dial 911 for medical emergencies.

"It's important to note that Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement or medical professionals," Uber spokesperson Brooke Anderson told STAT via email. "In the event of any medical emergency, we encourage people to call 911."

More articles on patient flow:
Struggling Mississippi hospital eliminates neurosurgery services
Involving patient's family in discharge process linked to 25% reduction in hospital readmissions 
American Medical Response, Lyft partner for medical transports

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