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Columbus, Ohio Hospitals Foot Bill for EMS Devices

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Columbus' three adult hospital systems have provided emergency medical agencies in seven counties with devices that will help heart-attack patients receive faster treatment at the right hospital.

The modems allow paramedics to send heart-monitor readings in seconds to hospital staff members so doctors can clear patients' blocked arteries as soon as they arrive.

That saves time and lives, experts say.

It also sends many of those patients to Ohio State University, OhioHealth and Mount Carmel hospitals.

In Columbus, for example, the devices have meant that many heart-attack patients have their arteries cleared less than an hour after they arrive at the hospital. The national standard is 90 minutes.

"It's incredible," said Capt. Shawn Koser of the Columbus Division of Fire.

The devices cost $490 to $694 per unit. The hospital systems gave out 144; -- Ohio State University Medical Center distributed 97, OhioHealth 31, and Mount Carmel Health System 16.

The hospitals also paid the multiyear subscriptions -- similar to cell-phone contracts -- that are required to send readings.

"It would have been a capital expense that would have been difficult for us to afford without the hospital support," said Chief Rob Farmer of Delaware EMS, which received 10 devices from OhioHealth.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and also is among the most lucrative illnesses for health-care providers to treat. Every Columbus hospital system has built heart centers, which they market heavily.

Hospital officials say the giveaway was not done to get more business.

"This gift was not about buying their business or bringing their patients to OSU," said Sharon Hammond, nurse coordinator at Ohio State. "This has been significant for these patients."

Koser said that, although Columbus received 32 devices from Ohio State, the donation doesn't influence where paramedics take patients.

The goal, he said, is to provide quick care to patients. That does mean, more often than not, taking them to larger hospitals with specialized cardiac services. As a result, some paramedics will bypass small or rural hospitals where patients would have been stabilized and later transferred to heart centers.

Farmer said that when handling heart-attack patients, his crews will drive past Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware or call for a medical helicopter to meet them at a scene.

"You do bypass the nearest hospital for the best appropriate hospital," said Dr. Warren Yamarick, medical director of the emergency department at Riverside Methodist Hospital, which, like Grady, is owned by OhioHealth.

"You don't want to delay care in trauma. You don't want to delay care in strokes, and you don't want to delay (care in) heart attacks."

Some rural hospitals contend that stopping at their centers improves care for patients. The patients are assessed by a doctor, given medication to help their heart and sent by helicopter to another hospital.

"It's really not about business for us; it's about health care and the delivery of care for every patient," said Deb Cramer, director of the emergency department at Memorial Hospital of Union County in Marysville.

shoholik@dispatch.com

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