Coordinated heart attack protocol makes transfers 40% faster

It has only been a week since new studies showed how short the timeline is for transferring heart attack patients to specially equipped hospitals, but already a new study has uncovered a statewide transfer protocol that can help.

The new study, published in the latest issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, details a North Carolina coordination program that sped patient transfers from an average of 97 minutes to 58 minutes, according to Science Daily.

The year-long study followed 55 hospitals in the state that could not perform percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to open blocked arteries. Under the program, the hospitals--including their ERs and EMS services--created protocols for treating and transferring ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, patients. The state program also provided a single phone number for hospitals to notify the nearest PCI-capable hospital of a patient being transferred.

EMS workers also were trained to use EKG data to identify PCI-eligible patients, and to administer EKGs in the ambulance, Science Daily reports. Interestingly, the EMS measures appear to have had the greatest impact, with their median transfer times improving by 94 minutes, the study shows.

The results in North Carolina are encouraging, "but with that said, more work is still needed to expand the integrated systems across the country and to further reduce time to treatment," lead researcher Seth Glickman tells Science Daily. The reason: Nearly 250,000 patients suffer a STEMI in the U.S. each year, but only 25 percent of hospitals can perform an emergency coronary angioplasty.

And remember, we told you last week about a study indicating that transferring STEMI patients within 30 minutes (half the time of the N.C. program), cuts mortality rates by nearly 55 percent.

To learn more: 
- here's the Circulation report
- read the U.S. News and World Report article
- check out Science Daily's coverage