BEN R. WILLIAMS Bulletin Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, May 18, 2015 8:00 pm
CarePoint system aims to save lives locally
At Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, Dr. Mark Stowe reviews an electrocardiograph sent to his cell phone through the hospital’s new CarePoint system. The CarePoint system allows EMS crews to transfer information to the hospital in ways that were not possible before, saving time and potentially lives. (Bulletin photo by Ben R. Williams)
When a medical emergency happens, time is of the essence, and a new system in place in the county and city helps shave precious seconds off of every EMS call.
The system — called CarePoint — was introduced in the city and county in December and became fully operational March 1, according to Matt Tatum, deputy director and EMS coordinator for Henry County Public Safety.
CarePoint is made up of multiple components that help area EMS crews convey information to Memorial Hospital in Martinsville more quickly and efficiently than ever before, Tatum said.
When an ambulance stops at an area resident’s home, he said, any communication sent by EMS to the hospital — including telephone calls, radio calls, faxes and email — goes through a central CarePoint computer in the emergency room.
The emergency room staff then can determine who needs to see the information and forward it on to that person, Tatum said. For example, if the ER doctor on duty needs the information, it can be forwarded to him or her, or if the cardiologist on duty would benefit most from the information, it can be forwarded to that doctor.
One of the most useful elements of the system, Tatum said, is called Rosetta-DS.
When a patient is having heart problems, he said, EMS providers will perform a 12-lead electrocardiograph (ECG), which is the standard test to determine how the heart is functioning.
Previously, Tatum said, that ECG — which provides a visual representation of heart function — would be handed to the ER doctor after the ambulance arrived with the patient.
The CarePoint system, however, allows the EMS crew to forward the ECG to the hospital before leaving the patient’s home, so that the hospital staff can analyze the data and know what to expect before the patient even arrives.
“When it comes to heart attacks or heart disease … ‘time is muscle,’” Tatum said. “That is a phrase cardiologists love to use. The longer that the artery is clotted off, the more damage is being done to the heart muscle. Time is of critical essence.”
If ER staff views the ECG and realizes that the patient should go straight to the hospital’s catheterization lab or even be flown to a different facility, that determination can be made before the patient arrives at the emergency room, a luxury that was not possible before the installation of the CarePoint system.
Tory Shepherd, who is director of cardiopulmonary neurophysiology services and Chest Pain Center coordinator at Memorial Hospital, said the system has helped heart patients tremendously.
“It expedites care, because the patient could potentially not even have arrived here and we’ve already had multiple physicians take a look at what’s going on with the patient,” she said. “Their treatment plan is underway before the patient even arrives.”
The ECG even can be sent to the cardiologist’s phone, she said.
Shepherd said area residents should avoid driving themselves to the emergency room when they’re having severe medical problems and instead should call 911 to summon an ambulance.
“Patients routinely bring themselves to the emergency room,” she said, “but treatment can start at the door when EMS gets (to the home). They can already start some of the medical treatment that (the patient is) going to need, they (can do) some of the diagnostic testing … it can be the difference between life and death for that patient.”
EMS, both Shepherd and Tatum said, should be viewed as an extension of the hospital.
“With the level of care our medics are able to provide, with the quality of the equipment that we have, the ambulances … are basically a mobile intensive care unit showing up at your front door,” Tatum said.
Another perk of CarePoint, Tatum said, is a system called eNet, which allows EMS staff to send secure, private text, photos, audio and video straight to the emergency room.
For example, Tatum said, if a car accident occurs, EMS can send photos of the accident to the hospital so that the ER doctor understands the severity of the accident before the patient arrives.
Additionally, Tatum said, if someone is suspected of having suffered a stroke, EMS can record a video of a stroke assessment test and send the video to the hospital to be evaluated by a doctor.
“Just like time is muscle with a heart attack, time is brain tissue with a stroke,” Tatum said. “Certain strokes really need to be treated within three hours of the onset of symptoms.”
Henry County is not the first locality in Virginia to add CarePoint technology to EMS, Tatum said, but to his knowledge, it is the first rural community to use the system.
“It’s pretty cutting-edge technology when it comes to pre-hospital care,” he said. “The rural communities are what will benefit from it the most. If you’re two blocks from the hospital, you’re not saving much time, but when you’re 15 miles from the hospital, you’re giving some advance notice to the physician” that can potentially save lives.
The entire CarePoint project cost just under $80,000, Tatum said. Memorial Hospital contributed about $45,000, while United Way contributed about $30,000.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Tatum said. “United Way has been very good to all the volunteer EMS agencies for many years.”
Although CarePoint equipment is not installed on every ambulance in the city and county, it is installed on the majority, including every career ambulance, Tatum said. Of the 24 ambulances in the city and county, CarePoint is installed on 16.
“I know it sounds like I’m bragging,” Tatum said.
“But I am,” he added, laughing. “Our EMS system is something to be proud of, especially for a rural community.”
*Content carried over from prior GD website: Published dates may not be accurate.