Central EMS, Northside Hospital collaboration reduces response time, save lives in STEMI patients

With emergency medicine, time is critical in diagnosing and treating every patient. One of the most time-dependent diagnoses is a STEMI, or ST elevation myocardial infarction.

Central EMS and the Northside Hospital-Forsyth Emergency Department are focused on coordinating efforts for a seamless STEMI response in Forsyth County, Georgia. Central EMS began providing emergency medical response to Forsyth County in January and since that time, the ambulance provider has conducted additional training with EMTs and paramedics on immediately recognizing the signs of STEMI and has integrated communication processes with the emergency department.

“EMTs and paramedics are often the first point of contact for a patient who is encountering a STEMI,” said Northside Hospital Director of Emergency Services Chris Munn. “Our partnership with Central EMS is incredibly important in allowing our hospital to continue its gold-level standard of STEMI care in Forsyth County.”

“In years past, the No. 1 measurement goal was to get a patient from the emergency department door to the catheterization lab in under 90 minutes. We’ve updated that standard to measure success as getting the patient from the first medical provider on the scene to the catheterization lab in under 90 minutes.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 250,000 people experience a STEMI, a type of heart attack caused by a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by surgically opening the blocked vessel or by giving clot-busting medication.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Once heart attack symptoms develop, every second is critical. A heart attack cuts off blood flow to the heart, resulting in the death of the heart muscle as time passes without blood. More than half of all deaths from heart attack happen outside the hospital within one hour of the onset of symptoms.

If you or a loved one experiences symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Attempting to drive to the hospital causes the loss of precious time and increases the time before emergency intervention.

As soon as a Central EMS emergency team arrives, EMTs and paramedics can begin lifesaving care. Every Central EMS ambulance in Forsyth County is outfitted with mobile electrocardiogram (EKG) patient monitors. These devices transmit vital data to area hospitals so Northside emergency department doctors are able to view the transmitted data and activate the heart catheterization lab prior to the patient’s arrival. The hospital is prepared to begin treatment immediately to clear blockage from the arteries and restore blood flow.  

“Immediately calling 911 for an ambulance when you recognize the sign of a heart attack can save your life,” said Diahan Underwood, training coordinator for Central EMS. “The moment a patient calls 911, they activate a streamlined process between our ambulances and the emergency department to ensure that the STEMI intervention happens as soon as possible. Time saved means better patient outcomes.”

Central EMS is conducting additional training with its EMTs and paramedics to review the signs of a STEMI and the interpretation of EKG data on the scene. In the rare case of equipment malfunction or EKG transmission failure, EMTs and paramedics will have a failsafe in place to communicate with Northside emergency department physicians to activate the catheterization lab in anticipation of a patient with a suspected STEMI.

Cooperation between emergency medical teams and emergency departments, such as the partnership between Central EMS and Northside Hospital, has been effective at reducing the death rate from coronary heart disease across the country by 38 percent over the past decade.

In 2015, Northside Hospital-Forsyth received the AHA Mission: Lifeline Gold Level designation for its success in implementing standards for STEMI intervention. Northside Hospital is an accredited chest pain center of excellence through the Society of Chest Pain Centers and a part of that accreditation is integration with EMS partners.