Windsor and Essex County ambulances will soon be equipped with technology that significantly speeds up the time it takes to treat heart attack victims.
They will be outfitted with software that allows paramedics to send vital information from the ambulance directly to a cardiologist’s phone — which can save time and lives.
Instead of waiting in a hospital emergency room until a doctor sees the results of the electrocardiogram, which helps diagnose a heart attack, the paramedics can get the information and send it directly to the cardiologist. The cardiac catheterization lab, where heart attack patients are treated, can get ready for the the case sooner. And the ER can be bypassed entirely.
“You’re getting people there quicker,” said Windsor Regional Hospital clinical practice manager Kaitlyn Sheehan. “The implementation of this technology could potentially save lives by getting patients quicker access to care.”
The technology, paid for by provincial funding for innovative ideas, will be in Windsor-Essex ambulances within three months, Sheehan said. It will shave up to 30 minutes off the door-to-device time, which is the time from a heart attack patient’s arrival at the hospital to that patient receiving a stent or having a blood clot removed.
“Time is muscle and every minute counts,” Sheehan said referring to the importance of reducing the time when the heart is receiving less oxygen — which damages muscle.
Time is so crucial in heart attacks that the general rule is seconds count. That’s why people are encouraged to call 911 as soon as they recognize signs of a heart attack.
The Ontario door-to-device benchmark is 90 minutes for Windsor Regional’s Ouellette campus, where heart attack patients can be treated. If a patient arrives in Leamington, Chatham or the Met campus, the benchmark is 120 minutes because the patient has to be transferred to the Ouellette campus from there.
The new technology can decrease the treatment time by a third for some patients, Sheehan said.
While an ambulance is rushing to the Ouellette campus, the cardiac team can prepare for the patient based on the information relayed to the cardiologist’s phone.
“The biggest impact is after hours,” Sheehan said. On nights, weekends and holidays, the on-call cardiac team can start heading to the hospital sooner. Instead of waiting for the patient to arrive at the ER and be assessed as having a heart attack, they can leave home as soon as the patient is assessed in the ambulance.
It also means ambulances can head directly to the Ouellette campus and not have to stop at a hospital closer to the scene to have an assessment done. Bypassing the emergency department, will also reduce backlogs there.
In 2015, Windsor Regional stopped sending emergency heart attack patients to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit during off hours and started treating them around the clock. In 2016-2017, staff at the Ouellette campus saw 315 emergency heart attack patients, Sheehan said..
The $30,000 in funding for the new software is coming through the TransForm Shared Service Organization, which is owned by the five hospitals in the region stretching from Windsor to Sarnia. It provides computer and tech support to the hospitals, and buys supplies in bulk to save money.
The organization is also receiving $1 million over two years from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, a provincial funding group. That money will be used to find ways to track things like a screw used in a hip replacement from the manufacturer to a specific patient. That information is helpful if there’s a recall or an issue with the part, said Michelle Watters, TransForm’s director of stakeholder relations, performance and people.
The organization is trying to get the region to be a hotbed of health-care innovation. “That is kind of our mantra: how is this going to really help the patient in our hospitals at the end of the day,” Watters said. “We have to innovate.”
Signs of a heart attack
Upper body discomfort
Shortness of breath
Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada