Ride-hailing apps vs. ambulance: When to call 911

Lyft or Uber drivers may refuse to drive you — know your options

You’re not feeling well and you don’t think it’s bad enough for an ambulance, but should you use your smartphone to get a ride from Lyft or Uber?

Ride-hailing/ride-share apps have made it easy for people to get where they want to go. But when it comes to needing urgent medical care, getting a ride from a friend or a stranger may not be what’s best for you or the driver.

Why take an ambulance?

Calling 911 and going to the hospital in an ambulance is for serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke and life-threatening injuries. Emergency medical responders have the training and equipment to provide lifesaving measures if your condition becomes worse on the way to the hospital.

Think you’re having a stroke or heart attack?

Call 911

Also, ambulances have sirens that can clear traffic. With conditions such as heart attack and stroke, time saved could mean a life saved. Depending on where you live, ambulances may have technology that can send information about a person’s condition before arriving at the hospital. For instance, the hospital’s cardiology team can be ready to help you as soon as the ambulance gets there.

All Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services ambulances have technology that allows emergency departments to review and assess the situation while the patient is en route. This saves valuable time in getting care, improving the chance of surviving a heart attack and minimizing heart damage.

Someone having a severe stroke caused by blockage of large vessels or bleeding is more likely to survive when taken to a Comprehensive Stroke Center. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Lifeline Stroke Committee recommends that if a severe stroke is suspected, a 15-minute transport delay is acceptable to get a patient to a Comprehensive Stroke Center.

Norton Brownsboro Hospital became a Comprehensive Stroke Center in 2015. It is one of only 143 hospitals in the nation to receive this prestigious designation. Combined with primary stroke centers at its other hospitals, Norton Healthcare has the area’s largest stroke care network.

If you suspect you are having a stroke or someone near you is having a stroke, call 911 right away. We do not recommend waiting for an Uber or Lyft. And never drive yourself.

What if I call a Lyft or Uber anyway?

Your driver can get there to pick you up — and once he or she sees your condition — may decide to call 911 for you anyway. The driver also can choose not to accept your ride — some drivers may be concerned with their liability as a contractor, or may not want to take a chance on dealing with blood, vomit or other body fluids.

If your condition worsens in the car, the driver may not know how to help you. If he or she has to pull over to help you or call 911, it will further delay you getting to the hospital and it could turn into a matter of life or death.

What if it’s not an emergency?

Lyft or Uber may be a solution to get a ride to a routine checkup with your health provider or for noncontagious illnesses, such as urinary tract infections.

If it’s not an emergency or a regular checkup, you may even be able to get care from the comfort of your home. Tools such as Norton eCare can help you get care from a provider no matter where you are through a video visit or eVisit.


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