9 Investigates taking ride-sharing services over ambulances to hospital

There is a growing trend of more people turning to ride-sharing services instead of calling an ambulance in an emergency.

ORLANDO, Fla. — There is a growing trend of people turning to ride-sharing services instead of calling an ambulance during emergencies.

Companies such as Uber said they've received reports of riders using the service to be taken to emergency rooms. Customers said it's mainly because of cost and convenience.

First responders told Channel 9 that customers take a risk when doing so.

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Adam Fuller started driving for Uber and Lyft last summer, but he now exclusively drives for Lyft.

"I've done almost 3,000 rides in a year," he said.

A nationwide study conducted by the University of Kansas revealed that cities with ride-sharing services saw average ambulance usage decrease at least 7 percent.

"I'm not surprised at all," Fuller said. "I mean, it's all about saving money."

The city of Orlando officials said ride-sharing services haven't affected ambulance usage in the city.

"I'm a nurse, so I know what medical bills cost and I know ambulances are not cheap," ride-sharing customer Debby Zamany said.

The Orlando Fire Department said the average cost of an ambulance ride in the city ranges from $700 to $1,000. The average cost of an Uber or Lyft ride is $15.

"It's not even comparing apples to apples," Orlando fire Deputy Chief Rich Wales said. "Not even close."

Wales said the city's ambulances carry advanced life support system technologies and certified paramedics and emergency medical technicians, who will know which hospital will best meet a patient's needs.

"An Uber driver is not going to be able to diagnose your stroke or heart attack, asthma, sepsis, so many major medical emergencies," he said.

An Uber spokesman provided Channel 9 with the following statement:

"We're grateful our service has helped people get to where they're going when they need it the most. 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 riders and driver-partners to call 911."

A Lyft spokesman provided Channel 9 with a similar statement:

"Lyft should not be used as a substitute for emergency transportation. In any medical emergency, people should be calling 911."

Medical professionals said the savings aren't worth the risk.

"You need to have the right equipment, the right personnel," Wales said.

But Fuller expects to see the practice continue.

"You have to be thrifty," he said.

OFD said patients may decline to be taken to a hospital once first responders have assessed their condition.