Paramedics relay vital patient information over secure app

Communication helps hospitals be at the ready
May 25, 2016

Colorado Springs is the first city in the United States to adopt a city-wide telecommunications tool that helps paramedics and EMTs in the field relay vital information about patients and their conditions to doctors and nurses in area hospitals.

Colorado Springs will begin in mid-June using the secure technology, Pulsara, to send information about patients suspected of having a stroke or heart attack. Streamlining communication from the field could help hospitals deliver treatment more quickly and dramatically improve a patient’s chances for recovery.

“It helps a patient because by the time they arrive at the hospital, they should already be registered,’’ said Stephanie Schlenger, stroke coordinator at UCHealth Memorial Hospital. “We know sooner that we are getting a patient and our stroke and STEMI (heart attack) teams are alerted sooner.’’

Paramedics will use the application to take a photo of a patient’s driver’s license, and also send other pertinent information. An EKG, for instance, can be sent via the smart phone to the emergency room physician, giving the doctor an early view of a patient’s condition.
Pulsara, a Bozeman, Mont.-based company, has developed an app that helps paramedics in the field relay vital information to hospitals.
When the paramedic sends the information to a hospital, it sounds an alarm at the hospital’s emergency department, heart catheterization lab and CT scan unit. Once clinicians receive the alert, they can assemble at the ambulance bay and greet the patient as he/she exits the ambulance.

In time, Pulsara may also be used to send information about trauma victims and patients with sepsis, but in the initial implementation in Colorado Springs, the app will be used for heart attack and stroke victims.

“We are always working to streamline our process from identification to intervention,’’ said Wanda Dienes, cardiovascular patient care coordinator at Memorial. “So this is just another means of cutting minutes off of that initiation from the first minutes when a patient realizes that they are having a problem to opening up that vessel either by medication for a stroke patient or getting that balloon in there for STEMI patients.’’

Memorial Hospital first inquired about Pulsara after seeing the technology at a health care conference. Memorial’s initial inquiry then led to conversation about using the application city-wide.

“We are the first city-wide pilot in the United States, and we are an ideal location for a pilot because there are only four hospitals in our city. AMR and the Colorado Springs Fire Department primarily transport patients, but we are reaching out to Fountain, Falcon, Elbert, Ellicott and Black Forest – all of our smaller fire departments – and providing the technology to them,’’ Schlenger said.

Jeffrey Force, director of Emergency Medical Services for Memorial Hospital, said research shows that “your best chance of surviving a heart attack is if the medical community in your area has a comprehensive system in place for treating you.  Instead of calling in to the hospital, Pulsara allows the paramedic to quickly and easily send all pertinent data to the hospital’s cardiac team.  This not only frees up the paramedic to focus fully on the patient, it helps the cardiac team better prepare for the patient’s arrival.”

When treating patients who have had a stroke or a heart attack, minutes matter. The sooner treatment is delivered, the less chance there is for loss of tissue. Hospitals across the nation routinely track how much time it takes to deliver treatment.

Pulsara is equipped with an atomic clock, which helps clinicians keep exact time.

“We will all be on the same clock now, so when we talk about door-to-balloon times, everybody is on the same clock,’’ Dienes said.

While Memorial Hospital already has exceptionally good door-to-balloon and door-to-tPa times, both Schlenger and Dienes believe that the new application will likely help the hospital shave more minutes off of times.

Memorial’s average door-to-balloon time is 51 minutes, far below the goal of 90 minutes and also well under the national average of 59 minutes.

Dienes said the application could be exceptionally helpful when, say, the emergency departments are receiving multiple patients who are suffering from heart attack or stroke.