Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Western Journal of Emergency Medicine


Volume 14, Issue 5


Introduction: Optimal solutions for reducing diversion without worsening emergency department (ED) crowding are unclear. We performed a systematic review of published simulation studies to identify: 1) the tradeoff between ambulance diversion and ED wait times; 2) the predicted impact of patient flow interventions on reducing diversion; and 3) the optimal regional strategy for reducing diversion.

Methods: Data Sources: Systematic review of articles using MEDLINE, Inspec, Scopus. Additional studies identified through bibliography review, Google Scholar, and scientific conference proceedings. Study Selection: Only simulations modeling ambulance diversion as a result of ED crowding or inpatient capacity problems were included. Data extraction: Independent extraction by two authors using predefined data fields.

Results: We identified 5,116 potentially relevant records; 10 studies met inclusion criteria. In models that quantified the relationship between ED throughput times and diversion, diversion was found to only minimally improve ED waiting room times. Adding holding units for inpatient boarders and ED-based fast tracks, improving lab turnaround times, and smoothing elective surgery caseloads were found to reduce diversion considerably. While two models found a cooperative agreement between hospitals is necessary to prevent defensive diversion behavior by a hospital when a nearby hospital goes on diversion, one model found there may be more optimal solutions for reducing region wide wait times than a regional ban on diversion.

Conclusion: Smoothing elective surgery caseloads, adding ED fast tracks as well as holding units for inpatient boarders, improving ED lab turnaround times, and implementing regional cooperative agreements among hospitals. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(5):489-498.]


Reproduced with University of California eScholarship Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.

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Peer Reviewed


Open Access