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Lehigh Valley Health Network and the Eastern PA EMS Council Fund Improvements to Heart Attack Care

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) is teaming up with the Eastern Pennsylvania EMS Council to improve the care of persons who suffer heart attacks.

LVHN recently donated $76,000 to fund the purchase of 76 broadband modems that will enable ambulance personnel in Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon and Schuylkill counties to send electrocardiograms (EKG) effortlessly and wirelessly to area emergency rooms. This will accelerate the diagnosis and initiation of the life-saving care of patients suffering the most serious kinds of heart attacks, called ST-segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or STEMI.

The EMS Council’s gift of $50,000 will purchase the three-year data plan needed to facilitate the connection between the ambulance-based modems and the receiving hospitals.

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

If the ambulance isn’t linked 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 send 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 and adequate time to prepare for the arrival of the patient and alert in-house heart attack team of the situation.

“This new technology will greatly improve our collaborative regional system of STEMI care for patients in our communities,” says Alexander Rosenau, DO, senior vice chair of the department of emergency medicine at LVHN. “Each year, thousands of persons in the Greater Lehigh Valley suffer heart attacks at home, work or in other non-hospital settings.”

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.

“The saying, ‘Time is muscle’ critically highlights the importance of continuously improving the speed with which medical teams diagnose and open the heart attack patient’s artery,” says Ronald S. Freudenberger, MD, LVHN’s chief of cardiology and medical director of the network’s Chrin Heart and Vascular Center. “A team, system and technology that work quickly and skillfully offer the best chances of saving these patients.” Lehigh Valley Hospital’s cardiology and heart surgery program is ranked nationally as a Best Hospital by U.S. News & World Report, achieving this recognition this year for the fourth consecutive year.

See how the modems will be used to improve the communication between EMS teams and ER doctors in the video above, and read media coverage of the event below.