An Uber is no match for an ambulance


Shortly before Christmas, a national study was released by the University of Kansas about the decline in ambulance transports whenever large ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft came into town. 

For those not in the know, these companies are like taxicabs that you can summon from an app on your smartphone. They are usually operated by employees who use their own cars to deliver passengers from location to location. Although they probably won’t see a large proliferation in rural Mississippi, they are out there in our metro centers like Hattiesburg, Biloxi and the Jackson area. Living in the country, I would be afraid that a pulp-wood truck would show up at my house if I called one of these services!

Nevertheless, the research from the U of Kansas found that a 7 percent drop in 911 calls is the average in the first year of ride-sharing companies in each city. 

Simply put, people are calling a taxi instead of 911 to go to the hospital. The research has yet to be proven, but the obvious conclusion is that consumers would rather pay a small fee for a taxicab than a large fee for an ambulance.

Having worked on and around ambulances for the better part of 20 years, I naturally think it is ridiculous to call a ride-sharing company instead of an ambulance for a medical emergency. From my vantage point, I can’t give an unbiased opinion on ambulance vs ride-sharing services, but maybe I can explain a little more about what EMS does.

Ambulances serve a unique purpose in the healthcare setting. They are stocked with medical equipment designed to monitor your heart, breathing and vital functions. Trained personnel are onboard who have dedicated their lives towards learning to treat sick and injured patients in a variety of different settings. Finally, ambulances are driven by trained professionals who can disobey certain traffic laws (with due regard for other motorists) in order to get to the patient to a hospital faster.

Consider this: Who would you rather call for your burning house? The fire department or your neighbor with a garden hose? Both have water and both have a means of dispensing it, however, I know who I would choose. 

I don’t want to seem anti-ride-sharing; I think they are a great idea for what they were designed to do and are a tribute to capitalism at its finest.

Moreover, my experiences with them getting me around town in large cities has been excellent. But to my point, I would hate to know that I put my life on the line because I wanted to save a few dollars on my trip to the hospital. Thinking that Uber or Lyft will ever replace ambulances is about as crazy as saying escalators will completely replace stairs one day. 

That being said, I bet most of the drivers for these services would rather you NOT have your baby in the back of their car.  Keep it simple in an emergency: take an ambulance to the hospital and cab to come home.

Stay safe out there.

M. Eric Williams, MS, NR-P is a Mississippi native and Instructor of Emergency Medicine.He is a Doctoral Candidate at Delta State University and has 15 years’ experience in healthcare.  If you have questions or comments, you may contact him at