The window of time from when a patient starts experiencing heart attack symptoms to the moment he receives treatment has always been a critical period. In the hospital industry, it’s known as “door to balloon” time, as balloon angioplasty (along with stenting) is one of the most common treatments for heart attack.
Cardiologists have long known that shaving off even minutes of that time can make a difference in the outcome of a patient. That’s why El Camino Hospital is excited about the launch of Lifenet, a new electrocardiogram (ECG) transmission and heart attack alert system from Medtronic, Inc.
Lifenet in Action
Lifenet transmits diagnostic-quality electrocardiograms (ECGs) from the ambulance to hospital staff via a secure, web-based alert system. If the heart attack is determined to be a STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction), the most dangerous kind and the most damaging to heart muscle, an alert then goes out to everyone involved in the patient’s care, from the emergency department physicians and nurses to the cardiac catheterization (cath) lab team.
“Once we’re alerted, our cardiac team can get everything in place so that when the patient arrives at the hospital, he or she can be immediately treated in our cath lab, instead of spending additional assessment time in the emergency room,” explains Alison Scherrer, lead nurse and clinical systems specialist for El Camino’s Heart and Vascular Institute.
A Smart Use of Smart Phones
One unique way ECGs are being viewed through Lifenet is on physicians’ smart phones and other handheld devices. If an interventional cardiologist is being called in from home or another location, the physician can look at an ECG prior to arriving at the hospital by simply pressing a button.
“We’re thrilled to be the first hospital in the county to have this exciting new system in place,” says Scherrer. “Who would have imagined a decade ago that we’d be able to read ECGs on our telephones?”
Time is Tissue
As a certified Chest Pain Center, El Camino Hospital has many protocols in place to ensure that heart attack patients are treated as quickly as possible, since “time is tissue” when it comes to injuries of the heart. Although the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend a door-to-balloon time of 90 minutes, El Camino typically treats patients in under an hour from the time of arrival.
With this new technology, physicians expect that an additional 10 to 15 minutes could be saved in most cases.
And any technology that can make that kind of difference is a smart use of hospital dollars as well.