Kent Medics Saving Lives with Technological Link to Hospitals
Heart patients benefit from expanded options at Kent Fire Department
Seconds count when it comes to saving the life of a heart attack patient.
That's why paramedics at the Kent Fire Department have a deserved sense of pride in their technology — and their ability to use it — when it comes to diagnosing, treating and transporting heart attack patients.
Within the past year, the department outfitted all four of its ambulances and its rescue truck with 12-lead electrocardiogram machines that can transmit a patient's real-time heart rate to area hospitals.
Kent Fire Chief James Williams said the new heart monitors allow paramedics to more quickly diagnose a patient suffering a severe heart attack and alert emergency room doctors.
"I think our quality of care ... for cardiac patients has improved tremendously," he said.
The department got its first 12-lead machine about 10 years ago, but at the time Kent could only afford one. And medics didn't start transmitting real-time read outs of a patient's heart rhythm until about 18 months ago.
The machines track the patient's vital signs over time and can alert medics if the patient's vitals are deteriorating or improving. The devices can read the percentage of oxygen reaching a patient's heart and can even send data on a patient's heart rate to a smart phone.
Essentially, it gives medics a clearer picture of what's happening real-time inside your heart, Williams said.
"I know I'm probbaly getting, on average, two to three calls a week from Akron City Hospital where they're seeing improved results from patients" with a severe heart attack, Williams said. "It has definitely improved the community's overall health and survivability of a heart attack."
Kent can transmit heart data to area hospitals including Robinson Memorial Hospital, Akron City Hospital, Akron General Hospital and the Summa Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls.
Jeff Tyler, a Kent firefighter paramedic, said the new monitors allow them to transmit data on a patient's heart even before loading them into the ambulance for the trip to the hospital.
"It also helps us determine patients that don't give us the classic signs of a heart attack," Tyler said. "Not all patients have the same symptoms."
Another advantage of the new machines is that they can alert physicians at Akron City Hospital if they need to staff its cardiac cathaterization lab, which is a special heart lab not staffed on nights and weekends.
Pat Paisley, a Kent firefighter paramedic, said the machines' ability to aid in faster diagnoses can cut a patient's wait time for the cardiac lab down from a few hours to 70 minutes to even eliminating wait time.
"Basically we're trying to put everything in line from the time we get a call to transporting to the hospital so it's a nice, even flow for the patient," Paisley said.
Tyler said the transmitted data gives doctors advanced warning about where a patient's heart may be blocked and if it's getting oxygen. They can even compare data if a patient has prior heart history and advise the medics on what drugs to use or avoid in treatment based on the EKG data.
The EKG machines complement two more pieces of equipment in Kent emergency vehicles aimed at saving lives. Kent's ambulances are stocked with automatic CPR machines that medics can strap to a patient to perform chest compressions in situations where firefighters may need to carry someone on a stretcher down stairs or are otherwise preoccupied.
Paisley said the auto CPR machines can free a medic's hands. It also eliminates factors involved when a human is trying to perform CPR during a bumpy ambulance ride.
Williams said the auto CPR machine recently helped saved the life of a 52-year-old man who had gone into full arrest in the back of an ambulance.
"The guys actually brought him back to where he was talking to them in the back of the squad after going into full arrest," he said.
In recent years, the department also added automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, to every one of its vehicles so personnel such as fire inspectors — and even the chief — who may be closer to an accident can deliver a shock to help bring someone back from full arrest.
Williams said patients shouldn't worry that the technology does more work than the paramedics. The machines are tools that aid medics in making diagnoses and providing treatment.
"It's a combination of the machine and the medic," he said. "We're not 100 percent automated. It's not just, 'We believe the machine.'"
Still, Kent Fire Lt. Dave Moore said all the updated technology gives Kent a state of-the-art status as far as ambulance departments go.
"They might make a machine that can talk to a patient, but you can't make a machine that's going to hold a human hand to a human hand," Moore said.