Salisbury Press

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Lehigh Valley Health Network funds EMS heart-attack care

Friday, August 23, 2019 by The Press in Focus

EMS organizations in five eastern Pennsylvania counties are getting upgraded technology to care for patients suffering a severe heart attack.

Pennsylvania, through the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund (EMSOF), Eastern PA EMS Council, Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Department of Emergency and Hospital Medicine, the Lehigh Valley Heart Institute and Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono combined to provide more than $100,000 to cover most of the cost of 90 modems and data plans for EMS units to transmit electrocardiograms (EKG) from the field.

EMS agencies from Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe and Schuylkill counties will pay much less for the upgraded technology thanks to the support. LVHN is said to be the only health network in the region to chip in with funding for the emergency services agencies in these counties.

Ambulance personnel in the counties will be able to transmit EKGs wirelessly to area emergency rooms. This will accelerate the diagnosis and expedite initiation of the life-saving care of patients suffering the most serious kinds of heart attacks, called ST-segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or STEMI.

Patients suspected by EMS providers of having a heart attack typically undergo a highly-sensitive, 12-lead EKG performed by a first-responder to confirm the diagnosis, which is often caused by a blocked heart artery.

“EKG transmission reduces the overall time to treatment by allowing the process to begin when the paramedics arrive,” said Ronald Freudenberger, MD, MBA, Physician-in-Chief, Lehigh Valley Heart Institute, adding, “This positively impacts the outcomes of the patients and families we serve.”

If the ambulance can’t connect wirelessly to an ER via a modem, a paramedic at the scene or on route to the ER interprets an EKG, then verbally alerts a hospital emergency room physician that a heart attack is suspected. This is confirmed upon arrival at the ER by a second EKG.

Ambulances equipped with modems can transmit the EKGs immediately to the destination ERs’ medical command physician for confirmation by viewing a large digital image of the EKG. This gives the ER staff specific details about the patient and adequate time to prepare for the arrival of the patient and alert in-house heart attack team of the situation.

In addition, the ER physician can forward the EKG to the mobile device of the interventional cardiologist who will be treating the patient.

Unblocking the heart attack-causing artery quickly gives the best chance for saving the patient’s life and the heart muscle that often has been deprived of blood during the heart attack.

“Through the ongoing support of our partners from Lehigh Valley Health Network, this technology affords our highly trained EMS practitioners immediate remote access to our emergency departments, medical command physicians and cardiology teams,” said John G. Kloss, Director, Eastern PA EMS Council.

“They can effectively diagnose critical cardiac dysrhythmias prior to arrival at a LVHN facility and expedite immediate intervention, effectively benefiting the patients we serve,” Kloss said.