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Boca Raton Uses Blue Tooth to Send EKGs

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Speed is strength when it comes to rescuing a heart attack victim.

Boca Raton Fire-Rescue paramedics have added some power to their rescue regimen this year with the Bluetooth cell phone device stuck to their ears. The medics use a Bluetooth to transmit electrocardiograms while en route to Boca Raton Community Hospital, cutting several minutes before a patient receives treatment.

"In our profession, time is muscle when we're dealing with the heart," fire-rescue spokesman Frank Correggio said.

Paramedics in the nine rescue units now instantly transmit the heart readings to a doctor.

Boca Raton Fire-Rescue has been using the system since January.

The technology works as a fax to the doctor waiting at the hospital, who then reads the EKG and decides whether to activate the cardiac catheterization lab's staff and machines. Though the hospital still does its own EKG when the patient arrives, several minutes are saved with the new technology, said Dr. Terry Cohen, medical director of the emergency department at the hospital.

"In the past, we'd wait until we saw what they had, to assess whether their call was accurate," Cohen said. "There are logistical reasons why you just don't call a fire alarm every time you see smoke."

The standard time for treating heart patients is 90 minutes from the time they get to the hospital to the time their arteries are being unclogged, Cohen said.

"The sooner we can open up those arteries, the less chance the portion of that heart muscle is going to die," fire-rescue EMS division Chief Bob Nelligan said.

Delray Beachand Boynton Beach fire-rescue use radios to give the hospital EKG results but are looking at technological upgrades such as the Bluetooth method.

"The sooner you can communicate that information to a waiting physician, the better off you are," Boynton Beach Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lewis said. "What this new technology will do is allow them to read what is on our monitor."

County Fire-Rescue spokesman Capt. Don DeLucia said his agency's Jupiter units will soon start transmitting EKGs over cell phones in a pilot program at Palm Beach Gardens Community Hospital.

Jerome Burdi can be reached at jjburdi@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6531.

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