WMHS Receives Prestigious Award for Field Activation of Cardiac Team By Paramedics


The UPMC Western Maryland recently received the prestigious Minogue Award for Patient Safety Innovation for enabling local EMS providers to activate its Cardiac Catheterization Lab from the field for heart attack patients.

The Minogue Award is given annually by the Maryland Patient Safety Center for an outstanding improvement to healthcare safety. This award was presented at a special ceremony in Baltimore that featured a keynote address from former Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani.

In 2010, WMHS became the first hospital in Maryland to implement this new protocol that has greatly improved access to care for heart attack patients. Rapid access to cardiac intervention services is essential when a patient is having a ST-elevation myocardial infarction, commonly known as a STEMI. A STEMI is a sudden blockage of one of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Without blood, the heart muscle will die.

This dangerous type of heart attack is usually recognized by the distinctive changes it produces on an electrocardiogram (EKG).

The best practice for treating a STEMI is a primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), better known as a balloon angioplasty. The sooner a patient is treated to relieve the blockage causing the STEMI, the better the heart muscles will recover.

“Enabling the paramedics to make the call to activate the Cath Lab when they determine a patient is having a STEMI saves valuable time,” explains Nancy Adams, Chief Nurse Executive and Chief Operating Officer at UPMC Western Maryland. “Previously, the first responder would transmit the EKG to the Emergency Department and the ED physician would consult with the cardiologist, who would decide whether to activate the Cath team.”

“The tremendous support we received from the local EMS providers enabled us to streamline the process,” continues Adams. “The paramedics completed the necessary training to interpret a 12-lead EKG and can now request from the field to have the cardiac team called. This shifts the decision from the ED physician and the cardiologist, creating a more rapid response.”

The national benchmark is for the PCI to be completed within 90 minutes of patient’s arrival to the hospital. As part of its quality efforts, UPMC Western Maryland measures this “door-to-balloon” time or “D2B.” In early 2010, the average was 78 minutes for patients calling 9-1-1. By enabling EMS to activate the Cath Lab, the D2B time now averages 54 minutes for those patients.

Signs of a Heart Attack

  • Chest Pain or discomfort for more than a few minutes
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, arms or upper back
  • Abdominal pain or feeling of heartburn
  • Cold sweats or clammy skin
  • Unusual tiredness or nausea
  • Dizziness / lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

Calling 9-1-1 at the first signs of a heart attack can result in quicker treatment since our cardiac intervention team can be activated before the patient arrives in our ED. It can save precious time and lives.

— Nancy Adams, Chief Nurse Executive and Chief Operating Officer

UPMC Western Maryland encourages everyone to know the warning signs of a heart attack.

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