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Ambulance Diversion Still a Concern Across the United States

Ambulance diversion linked to delays in treatment; seems ineffective for addressing overcrowding

FRIDAY, June 10, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The use of ambulance diversion for temporarily relieving emergency departments remains a critical issue across the country, according to a health policy brief published online June 2 in Health Affairs.

David Tuller, Dr.P.H. from the University of California at Berkeley, discusses the use of ambulance diversion as a strategy for relieving overcrowding in emergency departments.

Tuller notes that persistently high emergency department traffic has resulted in the continued use of ambulance diversion as a strategy for managing patient volume despite the fact that research has linked ambulance diversion to delays in treatment and that experts consider it to be an ineffective solution for addressing the problem of overcrowding. Although ambulance diversion may relieve congestion at one facility, it has a negative impact on other facilities. Ambulance diversion can also cause delays in hospital arrival for diverted patients, which can impact outcomes. Urban hospitals are more likely to go on diversion status, and this is exacerbated by the trend of hospital closures in urban locations and locations with disadvantaged populations. Some positive effects have been seen with efforts to control diversion, both with implementation of a no-diversion policy and with use of alternate methods of handling and managing emergency department patient traffic.

“Ambulance diversion remains a critical issue at emergency departments across the country,” Tuller writes. “Yet addressing it is complex because it is a symptom of the larger problem of emergency department and hospital overcrowding.”

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