Saint Joseph Mount Sterling Uses Wireless EKGs In Ambulances To Help Save Rural Heart Attack Victims
New program will slash time from heart attack diagnosis to treatment, reducing heart injury and saving lives
Mount Sterling, KY -- When it comes to saving heart attack victims, health care providers say “time is muscle.” If time can be cut between diagnosis and treatment, more of a patient’s heart muscle can be saved from damage. Shorter wait times mean more patients survive.
At Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling, a new program, CODE STEMI, links health care professionals at different facilities with a system that slashes the time it takes to diagnose and treat the most serious type of heart attack, known as a STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction). When paramedics from the Montgomery County Fire/EMS are summoned for a possible heart attack victim, they perform a rapid EKG at the scene. In a flash, EKG results are transmitted wirelessly to the Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling emergency department, where a physician reads them. If a STEMI is confirmed, the physician can activate the cardiac catheterization team at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington, where the patient can be transported via helicopter.
Prior to the initiation of CODE STEMI, it was a challenge to get a rural heart attack victim to a hospital equipped with a cath lab quickly. It’s vital to get a person suffering a serious heart attack to a cath lab within 90 minutes, according to Dr. Greg Jones, medical director for Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling’s emergency department.
“If we can get the patients to the cath lab, and get the clogged arteries to open back up, and get the blood flowing to the damaged part of the heart, we’re minimizing the injury,” Jones said. “There’s only so much time to open those blood vessels before permanent damage sets in.”
Montgomery County Fire/EMS Major Robin Barber has been instrumental in setting up CODE STEMI.
“It’s going to help heart attack patients tremendously,” he said. “It’s going to cut off 60 minutes from diagnosis to treatment, as a rough estimate. For a community of our size to be able to offer this is overwhelming. People living in Montgomery County deserve access to definitive care just as much as people living in the urban areas do.”
The program was started with funding from the Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling Foundation, Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling and the Montgomery County Fire/EMS. CODE STEMI is a partnership between the Montgomery County Fire/EMS, Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling’s emergency department, the Air Methods Kentucky helicopter service, and the Lexington Clinic, which supplies 24/7 on-call interventional cardiologists for Saint Joseph Hospital’s cath labs.
Dr. Allen Cornish is the section head of cardiology at the Lexington Clinic. To this physician, “CODE STEMI is unusual for rural communities,” he said. “This will not only save lives, but will also help preserve the quality of life of our patients by reducing the amount of heart injury.
I think eventually other cities and counties will be emulating this program.”
Jamie Fraley, R.N., B.S.N., C.N.S., the manager of the emergency department at Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling, was in on the planning of CODE STEMI from the start. The nurse knows how much training was required for every member of the team to work together. And she knows how much it has meant to heart attack patients.
Her hope is that the program can be extended to Bath, Menifee, Powell and Wolfe counties, she said.
“We are thrilled that it’s finally up and going,” Fraley said. “Everybody’s onboard with it. It really works well. It’s going to make our community a better place to live—with better access to health care.”
Saint Joseph - Mount Sterling has received accreditation as a Chest Pain Center from the international Society of Chest Pain Centers. The facility is a member hospital of Saint Joseph Health System, a 981-bed, eight-facility health care system that spans central and eastern Kentucky. Saint Joseph Heart Institute is headquartered in the Lexington, Saint Joseph Hospital facility. Saint Joseph Health System is a member of Catholic Health Initiatives, the nation’s second-largest Catholic health care system. Visit www.SaintJosephHealthSystem.org for further information.