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Donation to provide paramedics with wireless ability

Photo by Joel Hall
Representatives from Southern Regional, Southern Crescent Hospital for Specialty Care, and several paramedic programs celebrate a $203,465 donation to Southern Regional on Friday. The money will support a wireless system allowing paramedics to transmit electrocardiography to doctors from the field.

Photo by Joel Hall Representatives from Southern Regional, Southern Crescent Hospital for Specialty Care, and several paramedic programs celebrate a $203,465 donation to Southern Regional on Friday. The money will support a wireless system allowing paramedics to transmit electrocardiography to doctors from the field.

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Up until now, cardiologists receiving heart attack and stroke victims at Southern Regional Medical Center (SRMC) would have to wait until the patient arrived at the Emergency Department to review vital diagnostic information.

With a $203,465 donation from the Southern Crescent Hospital for Specialty Care, paramedics in seven different Southern Crescent communities will be given the ability to transmit electrocardiography (EKG) reports wirelessly to doctors at Southern Regional, before the patient ever arrives.

Southern Crescent Hospital -- a separate, long-term, acute-care hospital housed on the sixth floor of the Southern Regional building -- made the donation to the SRMC Foundation during a special check presentation on Friday.

With the donation, ambulances serving the hospital from Clayton, Henry, Fayette, Morrow, Peachtree City, Forest Park, and Rural Metro will be outfitted with wireless technology, able to transmit EKG readings to Southern Regional. Doctors will be able to view the readings in real time at a receiving station in the hospital's Emergency Department, or via smart phone, according to hospital officials.

Southern Crescent Hospital Administrator Jan Hamilton-Crawford said the donation will have an "immediate impact on the community" by improving the outcomes of heart attack and stroke victims.

"We are a not-for-profit organization," Hamilton-Crawford said. "As we have additional funds available, we pretty much commit that to the health needs of the community. There was obvious need for this type of wireless technology ... When patients get into a crisis mode like this, time is extremely critical. This is going to sustain lives. When the patient has a heart attack at their home, they can have a team of doctors there [at the hospital] waiting before they get to the door."

Jay Connelly, director of the Southern Regional Emergency Department, said that being able to better anticipate the needs of the patient, hospital staff will be able to shave vital minutes off of the patient's assessment time. He said that in some cases, patients will be able to skip a stop in the emergency department and head straight to surgery.

"Time is muscle, and it is essential that a patient is assessed quickly in the event of a potential heart attack or stroke," Connelly said. "These wireless systems dispense quick, reliable transmissions of a patient's symptoms, including images, which in turn, can permit patients to bypass the Emergency Department and go directly to the Cath Lab [catheterization laboratory] or even surgery, if necessary. This technology can save up to 30 minutes of assessment time for a patient in critical condition."

Donna Waggoner, managing director of heart and vascular services for Southern Regional, said similar wireless systems are currently in place among hospital systems in the northern metro area, and that the Southern Crescent would benefit from "the same kind of synergy." She said other hospitals in the area that purchase their own receiver stations will also be able to "tap in" to the wireless capabilities of the ambulances.

"The northern arc had a system set up that we admired," she said. "We thought, 'Why shouldn't the Southern Crescent have something similar?' It is about community and everybody having the same standard of care."

Cynthia Jenkins, director of the SRMC Foundation, the fund-raising arm of Southern Regional, said that, starting next week, the hospital will meet with the seven different paramedic programs and determine the allocation of equipment. She said the money will also fund training for paramedics to be able to use the equipment properly.

"We're going to be meeting to determine the roll out to see which EMS [Emergency Medical Services] programs need what," Jenkins said. "We'll be able to make those purchases immediately, because we are already wired on our end for the service. Before this year ends, we should be able to roll this out."