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Plan of attack: System allows doctors to get a jump on treating heart attack victims before they even get to the hospital

If you're having a heart attack, every minute counts.

Ellis Hospital in Schenectady donated enhanced EKG units to three area emergency medical service agencies recently to allow EMS crews to immediately transmit EKG information from the field to the emergency department and the cardiologist-on-call's cell phone.

It is part of an initiative, which is also occurring in other area hospitals, to shave down the door-to-balloon time, which is the time it takes to get a heart attack patient into treatment. Ellis Hospital's average time to get patients with the most common type of heart attack " known as STEMI, or ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction -- into treatment is 56 minutes, versus the industry's standard expectation of 90 minutes.

"We've done several meetings with paramedics to give them a cardiologist's view of EKG interpretation, which helps them to interpret readings more effectively," said Dr. Steve Weitz, a cardiologist at Ellis Hospital.

"We can be in the ambulance in a virtual way where we can see the EKG on our mobile device when the patient is in the field, and we can confirm the diagnosis, and, at our discretion, call the ambulance and ask if they need any help or direction in taking care of the patient before they arrive," said Weitz.

If a patient is having a STEMI heart attack, an EMS calls and activates a STEMI alert. A single call by the hospital operator pages the entire Cath Lab team, where the patient is taken for treatment. By the time the patient arrives at the hospital, everyone is ready and waiting.

Ron Mazure, a Rotterdam resident, had a heart attack last year. It started some time on a Sunday night, but it wasn't until early in the morning that he decided to seek treatment. At first, he said that he felt like he had indigestion or heart burn, but despite his efforts to make himself feel better, his discomfort kept getting worse.

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