New monitoring device sends real-time vital signs to emergency room

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Riverview firefighter Dan Wood shows a Physio-Control Lifepak 15 monitor/defibrillator that can send critical vital signs to doctors at an emergency room while a patient is still en route.

Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – Firefighters here have received help from a local health care provider to enhance their lifesaving capabilities.

Oakwood Healthcare System recently gave the Fire Department a monitor/defibrillator device and capable of transmitting real-time patient vital signs to trauma center doctors while patients and paramedics are en route to a hospital.

Riverview is the latest Downriver community to receive the Physio-Control Lifepak 15 through an Oakwood program that equips and trains paramedics with the device in order to raise the standard of cardiac and trauma care. Using approximately 15 monitors placed with paramedics in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Allen Park, Melvindale and Taylor for the past year, field trials have been run in which prehospital patient vital signs are transmitted to Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn.

Allen Park Fire Chief Douglas LaFond said Tuesday that his department’s “save rate” has gone up tremendously. He said the national average is 5 percent, and Allen Park’s save rate is now 36 percent, down from 40 percent last year due to some serious accidents.

Oakwood hopes to double the number of units in the hands of advanced life support personnel by placing at least 15 more in ambulances in select Downriver communities.

Riverview Police and Fire Chief Donald Ginestet announced receipt of the unit, valued at $27,000, at the Jan. 18 City Council meeting.

“This state-of-the-art unit can transmit patient vital signs such as 12-lead (electrocardiography), blood pressure, et cetera, directly to the hospital while the ambulance is en route,” Ginestet said. “The (emergency room) doctor can view these, and any specialized treatment that the patient may require will be awaiting them at the hospital.”

A “lead” is a view of the heart’s electrical activity from a specific angle across the body. The unit’s 10 electrodes provide the 12 leads, from which data is sent to the trauma center where the patient is being taken. Medical experts consider that set of heart data to be the “gold standard” for diagnosing heart disease.

Along with the technology, Oakwood will provide free two-hour update training for city firefighters.

Riverview firefighter and emergency medical technician Dan Wood said residents of Riverview will benefit from the partnership, because the 12-lead EKG data will be sent directly to emergency room doctors, who will have analyzed it by the time the paramedics arrive with the patient. The portable unit fits on the back of a stretcher, Wood said.

“Everybody is trying to increase the standard of care with paramedics because paramedics are the first line,” Wood said. “We are the eyes and the ears for the doctor, so we try to do as much as we can in the field. The more that we can do before you get to the hospital … the chances of survival go up.”

Riverview firefighter Brian Davenport said if transmitted data shows a patient might be experiencing a heart attack caused by partial or full blockage due to a blood clot in a coronary artery, doctors can activate the catheterization lab for good candidates for immediate intervention. The patient then won’t have to spend as much, if any, time in the ER before receiving heart catheterization.

Oakwood spokesman Joe Murray said speed is critical to treating blocked arteries.

“The more time that those arteries are blocked, the worse it is for your heart, the more heart muscle that dies,” Murray
said. “Especially with this type of illness, it’s real important that they get this treatment really fast.”

Riverview’s 4.1 square miles of mixed residential and commercial properties, which includes Riverview Towers Co-op and three assisted living centers, contain a “very significant” number of senior citizens.

“That’s one of the main reasons we went to ALS (advanced life support) in the first place,” he said. “We knew that the senior citizen population … would benefit from this.”

Murray said hospital officials estimate that Oakwood Southshore Medical Center in Trenton, a provisional level 2 trauma center that aspires to level 1 status, could start receiving monitor/defibrillator data live in March. He said if Oakwood is able to place 15 additional monitor/defibrillators Downriver with advanced life support paramedics, it could double the size of the current program.

“We’re really happy to get to this point, and we’re looking forward to getting everyone on board,” Murray said. “It’s been a real successful program, and we’re happy that it’s going to be benefiting the community like it has.”