Friday, February 17, 2006

Two Studies Document Ambulance Diversion Problem

From an Annals of Emergency Medicine (ACEP) Press Release:

Two new studies published online by the Annals of Emergency Medicine document the extent of ambulance diversions signaling a lack of capacity in the emergency medical care system. One study is national in scope, while the other looks at the problem on the local level, but both uncover clues about the causes and characteristics of ambulance diversion that could help policymakers address the problem.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers, in the first national study of ambulance diversions, found about one ambulance in the United States is diverted every minute from its originally intended emergency department because it was overcrowded and could not safely care for another sick or injured patient. The research is based on the 2003 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an annual probability sample survey of U.S. hospital emergency departments and outpatient departments.

About 16.2 million patients arrived by ambulance to emergency departments in 2003, which represent 14 percent of the total emergency department visits made that year, according to the CDC. Of those visits, seniors comprised nearly 40 percent, the largest group transported by ambulance to emergency departments.

"Considering the biggest users of ambulance services are people over age 65, and the number of seniors is expected to substantially increase over the next decade, ambulance diversion could disproportionately affect this age group," said the study’s lead author Catharine W. Burt, Ed.D., with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland


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