If Uber Is Faster than EMS, Then What?


This piece was originally published on the Medlert Inc. blog.

Recently, a number of headlines have claimed that the mobile-enabled car service company, Uber, now offers faster service than an ambulance.

Granted, the business models for Uber and EMS are not the same. The services provided by a paramedic and an Uber driver are not comparable, except, of course, in Jimmy Kimmel’s amusing “Ubulance” skit.

But on a serious note, these articles highlight a longstanding and ill-conceived quality and value measure in EMS: response times. I think they also beg a larger question of the EMS industry.

Where is the commitment to building smarter, mobile-enabled services that offer high-quality customer service?

Uber Is Driven By Mobile & Analytics

Uber is a great example of a company that is pushing forward the mobile mind shift and building a successful business driven by mobile tools and a commitment to customer service and transparency.

Uber’s business is also driven by analytics that revolve around offering quality metrics and fast service. Using the Uber app, any ride seeker can:

  • Check how many Uber cars are close by,
  • Calculate the estimated cost of a ride,
  • Order a car,
  • See the name of the driver, make and model of the vehicle picking up,
  • Pay for the ride, tip included, using a credit or debit card uploaded into the app, and
  • Submit a customer review of the ride/driver.

Startups Can Shake Up Established Industries

Founded in 2009, Uber has grown rapidly. Much to the chagrin of many established taxi companies, the startup has shaken up the public transportation industry in many cities.

The EMS industry should, perhaps, take note of Uber’s success and approach, and recognize that customers increasingly expect the types of smart, mobile-enabled platforms and data analytics tools that Uber offers.

When it hits the headlines that Uber is faster than an ambulance in two major cities, I think the pressing question is what is the ambulance industry doing to respond?

Is the ambulance industry committed to trying new business models? To creating and adopting smarter mobile-enabled platforms? To building better systems that seamlessly track analytics on efficiency, safety, and customer experience?

What Analytics Matter in EMS

In talking to Matt Zavadsky, Director of Public Affairs at MedStar Mobile Healthcare, about the articles he said, “Perhaps most importantly, we should be looking at what are we doing to change the value and quality perception away from a performance metric that has no clinical impact, except in 1% of our responses.”

What might some comparable analytics be? Ambulance companies could track and report, for example,

  • The customer experience scores of the personnel responding to a call,
  • The most efficient routes for transport based on real-time traffic reports,
  • The closest ambulance for each call, or
  • Accurate ETAs to pickup and drop-off locations.

There are any number of other data points that could be useful from a customer service and a business analytics perspective.

How Will the Ambulance Industry Pivot?

The larger point remains, though, how does the ambulance industry plan to pivot to respond to changing technology, outcome and value-based reimbursement models, and customer expectations?

You can ignore the PBS News Hour report that in New York City you can get an Uber in two to three minutes but an ambulance will take six minutes, but consumers will take note.

Consumers can see that Uber is revolutionizing the ride service industry. They have responded in kind. Soon, they will expect same of the ambulance industry.

Who is planning to step up?