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Putting Chest Pain on the Clock: April 17, 2014

Numbers tell the story. More than 5-million people visit the hospital each year with chest pain.  And about 600,000 people die each year from heart disease. The challenge is to intervene early.

“Heart disease is a number one disease in the American society. So our number one, chief complaint, coming through our doors in the emergency room is chest pain,” says ER Dr. Larry Hobbs.

As part of the challenge to speed treatment, Lee Memorial Health System put in place a protocol driven approach to patient management. It reduces time to treatment during the early stages of a heart attack. Beginning with a call to 911 for an emergency response.

“We added an EKG station so that EMS can transfer the EKG to the Emergency Room prior to the patient getting here. So we can get the cath lab manned and ready to go and have the cardiologist standing by,” says Dr. Hobbs.

If someone is having a heart attack, they can be quickly taken into surgery to re-open a blocked artery. But other times the cause of their chest pain is unclear. In those instances, patients can now get a speedy assessment.

For Southwest Florida it is a novel program.

“And we believe it's the best medicine because we’re using nationally evidence-based medicine,” says Cindy Brown, vice president of patient care.

The health system instituted a chest pain program in each of its hospitals. It includes a ward of patient rooms with trained staff to conduct the necessary tests.

“We do what’s called point-of-care testing which means we’re able to draw your blood and determine whether or not the blood work shows you might have had a heart attack” Brown says. “That used to take about an hour to get the results. We’re able to get them now in 15 minutes. So were able to move the patients quickly through the system and quickly to a diagnosis.”

Going back to the numbers: using these protocols, cuts diagnostic time in half. Setting new standards of care.