More people using Uber and Lyft to get to hospitals

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WCAV) — Over the last few years, ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft have become increasingly popular.

Passengers have been using the apps to get to places like stores, airports, restaurants, bars and now, hospitals.

A recent study done by the University of Kansas said ambulance volume has gone down seven percent because people are taking Uber and Lyft rides to emergency rooms.

"They're doing it to save money," said Joshua Smith, an Uber driver in Charlottesville.

A few months ago, Smith took a woman to the emergency room who suffered a broken ankle.

"She was walking really, really slowly and she was kind of hobbling," said Smith. "I got out of my car and ran up to her and I asked her if I could give her a hand. That's when she told me it would be great if I could give her a hand, because she fell down the stairs and she thought she broke her ankle and I was taking her to the emergency room."

Smith called the trip a hectic but rewarding experience.

"I felt like I did something good for her," said Smith.

Officials at the University of Virginia Medical Center said the percentage of patients arriving by ambulance has not changed during the past several years for them. They said many of their patients live in rural areas where rideshare drivers are not present.

It's much more ubiquitous in more urban parts of the country.

William Brady, a professor for Emergency Medicine at UVA, urged people to use good judgment when deciding what mode of transportation to get to the hospital.

"Things like chest pain, shortness of breath, a heart attack, a stroke or a severe asthma attack are just the beginning of the list of emergencies and without a doubt, those patients should call 911," said Brady. "One of the worst things that could happen, an Uber driver is driving you in and you could have a worsening of your condition that's going to distract the driver and could cause an accident."

Smith warned drivers and passengers to exercise caution when taking trips to the emergency room.

"Be very, very careful of what situations you put yourself into."