When you are having a heart attack, time can make all the difference in the world.
The chances for recovery from an acute heart attack improve with quick treatment. By improving the technology in ambulances, including equipping them with EKGs, the time before treatment begins can be reduced by transmission of information to medical teams at six key hospitals across North Dakota.
The American Heart Association received $7.1 million to implement a program streamlining care for heart attack patients across the state.
It calls for adding the EKGs to ambulances, additional technologies at the hospitals to receive data from those mobile EKGs and a standardized protocol statewide.
"I think it's going to save a few more lives," Dr. Karthik Reddy, a Sanford Health cardiologist in Bismarck, told the Tribune.
We like that a lot. Knitting together patients, information from first responders, medical teams and urgency can be a huge benefit in a medical crisis.
The six North Dakota hospitals in the program include Sanford Health and St. Alexius in Bismarck. The other hospitals are in Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot. The program is supposed to be fully operational by Jan. 1.
At this time, the installation of EKGs and other equipment is 70 percent complete. The equipment to receive info from the mobile EKGs should be up and running at St. Alexius and Sanford Health in the next few weeks.
The new equipment relays EKG results that can identify the location of blockages, along with blood pressure and the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in a patient's blood stream. It means a medical team can be fully prepared for medical procedures once the patient reaches the hospital.
Having the same protocol in treatment across North Dakota, which was developed based on best practices and an advisory committee with representation from each hospital, should improve care as well.
In a rural state like North Dakota - one with a high mortality rate for patients with heart attacks - the new equipment with standardized protocols can be a real lifesaver. It's no surprise that the American Heart Association is involved in making these improvements, it has a long history of taking on "heart heath" issues.
The Mission:Lifeline program represents solid thinking, necessary funding and a willingness among the medical community to work together.