Nebraska department put wireless in ambulances to transmit EKG readings to hospitals
Lincoln (Neb.) Fire and Rescue ambulances now are armed with wireless technologies that will help save the lives of heart-attack patients, said Roger Bonin, the department’s EMS supervisor. All eight of Lincoln’s ambulances can use wireless electrocardiogram and digital data systems on patients with chest pain and transmit such data over a cellular network to doctors waiting at BryanLGH and Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Centers, Bonin said.
When paramedics arrive on scene, they hook up cardiac monitors to patients and generate a 12-lead EKG within 4 minutes. Bonin said in the past, they would phone the hospital if there was a cardiac alert. Now, with the help of a $60,000 Community Health Endowment grant from the hospitals, a modem and Verizon air cards, paramedics can transmit a live feed of the patient’s heart to cardiologists, letting doctors determine treatments before they reach the emergency room, Bonin said.
“Physicians can determine, at that time, whether a balloon catheter is needed and prepare its staff for the patient’s arrival,” he said.
The department wanted to ensure the time paramedics arrive on scene to the time a catheter is administered — or curb-to-balloon time — is 90 minutes or less. With the help of wireless technologies, the average curb-to-balloon time is 60 minutes, Bonin said.
Bonin admitted that paramedics have run into wireless coverage issues, especially when they are operating in tunnels or in the basement of a cement building.
“There’s a few other places where our radios don’t work well, so we obtain the 12 lead and when we get outside of the dead zone we hit the transmit button again,” he said. “Usually within 30 seconds to 2 minutes, it has been transmitted.”
Bonin urged fire chiefs to get in contact with hospital foundation boards and solicit grant money for similar programs.
“Our program has been a huge success,” he said. “We are happy with it, the hospitals and the cardiologists are happy with it, and there is a decrease in the time the patient contacts the PSAP and gets the balloon inflated in their cardiac artery.”