Lifeline from the field
Date: February 7, 2011
This past Christmas Eve, a 53-year-old man suffering from chest pains received lifesaving cardiac catheterization only 41 minutes after arriving at Howard County General Hospital, thanks to a new communications system allowing county paramedics to send vital information to waiting cardiologists.
Time is of the essence when a patient is experiencing STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction), a severe heart attack caused by a sudden, prolonged blockage of an artery that supplies blood to a large area of the heart. To ensure the best outcome for that patient, the blocked artery must be opened as soon as possible by a balloon angioplasty procedure in a cardiac catheterization laboratory.
The goal for treatment time is 90 minutes from the time the patient enters the hospital to the time when the patient’s artery is opened, a measure known as “door-to-balloon” time.
Howard County General Hospital and Suburban Hospital recently added a Web-based system, LIFENET, which lets emergency medical services (EMS) teams in the field to send EKG readings to hospital staff digitally, with the results immediately accessible on desktop computers as well as smart phones. The information can help doctors direct patients to the cardiac cath lab and bypass emergency rooms—saving lives, time and money.
At each hospital, teams of interventional cardiologists, nurses and technologists provide 24/7 coverage in the cardiac cath labs. The goal for treatment time is 90 minutes from the time the patient enters the hospital to the time when the patient’s artery is opened, a measure known as “door-to-balloon” time.
The Howard County equipment was funded by the Howard Hospital Foundation and implemented in early November 2010. In Montgomery County, Suburban Hospital partnered with two Adventist HealthCare hospitals and Holy Cross Hospital to provide the equipment to the county EMS service. The equipment was installed in Montgomery County last month.
According to Matthew Levy, an emergency physician on staff at Howard County General Hospital and associate medical director of Howard County Fire and Rescue, “we have empowered EMS to make the call to get resources in line. They can be proactive, not just reactive—ultimately saving patients’ lives.”