Current Events in Health Policy

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Current Events in Ambulance Diversion

Health care policy refers to the actions and plans that are set up and undertaken to fulfill health care objectives in the community or nation (Kronenfeld, 2002). The policy is made to achieve several goals. For example, it is used to define the future expectations and target which should get achieved within a given timeframe. So many health policies and changes have been made by policy makers throughout the world, to solve the existing problems. Some of the issues include ambulance diversion, transparency in clinical research and transformation of the physician. This paper is mainly concerned with ambulance diversion. Ambulance diversion refers to a contentious tactic of temporary minimization of overcrowding in hospitals’ emergency departments (EDs). By raising a diversion status, a hospital directs all the incoming ambulance to other departments.

The first Emergency Departments (ED) congestion got cited in 1990’s, a situation that led to the transportation of critically injured patients to other facilities. During those times, physicians did not see much need for ambulance diversion, due to limited unexpected events and crisis. Several years later, the popularity of ambulance diversion grew very rapidly. According to 2006 research at the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the study revealed that the rate of EDs in the United States was approximately forty-five percent and in urban areas it was about seventy percent (Burt et al., 2006).

Ambulance diversion has been very beneficial, not only in the United States nation but also to the world because it provides relief to the EDs which requests for diversions and thereby allowing the department to function smoothly and efficiently without congestion. However, if the situation progresses to an unmanageable level, it may lead to a domino effect, resulting in clogging of nearby facilities with patients. The nearby facilities then request for diversion, and now distance issues arise as there will be too many delays when transferring patients over long distances.

With the current improvement in transportation means and traffic management challenges in the ED have been highly minimized. Nowadays, hospitals all over the globe utilize emergency diversions as a strategy to manage patient volume. It gets noted that EDs have a very important role in the United States medical system. The introduction of the new ambulance diversion system has not only minimized delays, but it has also been a major factor in saving lives. Recent studies from American Hospital Association show that Pa capita demand increased from approximately three hundred visits per a thousand people in 1990s to four hundred per a thousand (In Tavana et al., 2015). The limitations associated with offering diversions include low-profit margins and a high number of patients are poor, and so most of them get disadvantaged especially in rural areas. The latest trends in the ED overcrowding scenarios are that the hospitals increase the time the patients have to wait to see physicians.  Usually, the staff does not like seeing overcrowding scenarios in EDs especially because resources and personnel are limited. In an attempt to minimize such clogging, the staff delays new visitors until space is available at the ED unit.  This situation, however, is disadvantageous to those patients with critical illness.

There is still hope for hospitals the government provides incentives to address their issues. Currently, there are ideas for crowding rates to get publicized public through government sites. Publicizing the level of crowding in ED may motivate the hospitals, especially when hospitals relate their rates to their neighboring competitors and fear that patients will act similarly. The most important thing is that the government emphasizes that hospitals should change how they operate by using all possible ways to reduce overcrowding.


Burt, C. W., McCaig, L. F., National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.), & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.). (2006). Staffing, capacity, and ambulance diversion in emergency departments, United States, 2003-04. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

In Tavana, M., In Ghapanchi, A. H., & In Talaei-Khoei, A. (2015). Healthcare informatics and analytics: Emerging issues and trends.

Kronenfeld, J. J. (2002). Health care policy: Issues and trends. Westport, Ct: Praeger.

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