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Cindy Ficorelli

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Genesys works with EMS to reduce heart attack deaths

(GENESEE COUNTY/NORTH OAKLAND COUNTY, MI) Every year, nearly 250,000 people experience a STEMI, otherwise known as a heart attack.
ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is caused by a blockage in a coronary artery, which stops the blood supply to the heart. Without blood, the heart muscle will die. A STEMI is considered a life-threatening medical emergency that requires a rapid response from all members of the medical team beginning with the first responders in the field.

Thanks to community support through Affair of the Heart (a fundraising event held in February), Genesys Heart Institute raised $53,000 for its pilot STEMI activation-in-the field initiative, designed to save lives.

Through the use of smart technology, EMS providers can send cardiac information (ECG) directly from the ambulance to the emergency department prior to the patient's arrival. An emergency department physician will review the ECG, communicate with the EMS providers en route to the hospital, and determine jointly if activation of the cardiac catheterization lab is the next step. When the patient arrives, the heart team will be ready and prepared to start treatment immediately. "Receiving treatment quickly is crucial to the patient's outcome," reports Kim Bonzheim, administrative director of Genesys Heart Institute who is facilitating the pilot.

Swartz Ambulance, Patriot Ambulance and Groveland Township Fire Department and Rescue are the three ambulance providers piloting the STEMI activation-in-the-field initiative.

After the pilot, "the plan is to add more EMS providers and share this technology with local hospitals in order to enhance care for all patients in the region," Bonzheim explains.

"By using this new technology, we drastically can decrease the amount of time for heart patients to receive treatment," announces Jay Johnson, vice president of Patriot Ambulance Services. "Our EMS providers have the ability to take a picture of the ECG, send it off right away to the emergency department where it is reviewed, and we probably can shave about 30 to 45 minutes of time with this communication. We can save more lives with this new technology. We are very thrilled to be part of this pilot with Genesys."

Swartz Ambulance received 12 iPods for the pilot. "We have 12 ambulances and at any given time, at least eight of our ambulances are on the road," reports Alex Boros, quality assurance and education coordinator for Swartz Ambulance. "Time is muscle, and the more time we can save gives us a better chance of saving more lives. We are a team, working together to save time and save lives. The EMS providers, the emergency department, and the cath lab work as one team with one purpose - to save time and lives."

Steve McGee, fire chief of Groveland Township Fire Department and Rescue, says the department purchased one iPod previously to experiment with it. Genesys provided three more for the pilot.

"One of the major reasons Groveland Township Fire and Rescue chose Genesys as our base hospital was their proactive philosophy. Rapid intervention is important to Genesys. This pilot focuses on cardiac events; every minute counts; heart muscle does not regenerate," McGee points out.

"The doctors and staff at Genesys continue to work on methods to decrease the time from when an ambulance arrives on the scene to appropriate treatment at the hospital. This pilot will change lives, not only for Genesys patients, but for patients around the state and further," he finds. "News of this study already is reaching other counties; some have established research groups in an effort to follow the process Genesys has initiated.

"We know this effort will save lives."

How the process works

EMS is called for a possible heart attack (STEMI). The providers travel to the patient's home or place of the incident, examine the patient and perform an ECG. Next EMS providers take a picture of the ECG and send it to the hospital via a HIPAA protected app loaded on their smart device. An emergency department physician reviews the ECG, discusses it with the EMS provider (and possibly a cardiologist) to determine if the hospital needs to activate its cardiac cath lab team. The cath lab team is ready to treat the patient upon his/her arrival at the hospital.

"By activating the cath lab from the field, we have a head start on getting our cath lab team and cardiologist prepared for the patient," Bonzheim reports.


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