Hospitals are diverting ambulances less frequently because of better inpatient management and communitywide oversight, the Center for Studying Health System Change said in a new report. Visiting hospitals in 12 geographic markets during 2002 and 2003, researchers found ambulance diversions were not as frequent or as unmanageable as they were in 2000 and 2001. Many of the hospitals had expanded or were planning to expand emergency department capacity. But the most important strategies, according to the report, involved broader operational issues, such as expediting the flow of patients through their hospital stays, creating overflow areas to free intensive-care beds and paying specialists for on-call duties. Most of the 12 communities also developed guidelines on how long hospital diversions can last, the types of patients or conditions deemed off limits to diversions and the situations that warrant diversions. "Much can be done to improve management of existing hospital capacity before making potentially costly expansions," center President Paul Ginsburg said in a news release. Read the report. -- by John Morrissey
ER diversions fall thanks to better patient flow
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