"We actually were surprised we found some decreases. The key take home is that it didn't cause disaster. Considering how frequently hospitals in our state and across the country have used diversion, that is an important finding that we eliminated it across the board and things went well."
Not only did the study alleviate fears about ED backlogs, Burke says the results also undermine arguments that diversion is an effective strategy for combating overcrowding.
"There were concerns when the ban was imposed that diversion had been the way of doing business for some time and it was a significant policy change so there were definite concerns that it would cause problems for hospitals," Burke says.
"But there has been research in emergency medicine that has looked at what are the main causes of ED crowding. The thought is that it is output factors that lead to ED crowding, predominantly boarding of admitted patients in the ED. If you want to impact crowding, ambulance diversion isn't the best way to go about it. Hospital-wide factors such as lack of bed availability or insufficient staffing cause boarding in the ED, which is a much greater contributor to crowding."
In addition, Burke says, diversion causes problems for patients and hospitals.