Friday, February 29, 2008

Atlanta Hospitals and Heart Association Join Together to Communicate Dial 911 Heart Attack Message

While it is generally recognized that most hospitals and healthcare organizations naturally compete with one another for business and patients, a unique collaboration in the Atlanta area has actually teamed five hospitals together--all in the name of saving lives.

TIME works to decrease the time between the onset of cardiac symptoms and hospital treatment by transmitting full 12-lead EKG information from the transporting ambulance to one of the five hospitals, triggering activation of the hospital's emergency catheterization team and rapid intervention upon patient arrival. The primary focus of the project is closing the gap between onset of symptoms and interventional angioplasty versus the common focus of decreasing the amount of time from the door of the hospital to angioplasty.

Recently, the marketing and public relations departments with each hospital, as well as the American Heart Association, worked to develop an awareness communications campaign called "Dial Don't Drive," which is geared toward educating consumers to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and to call for emergency help, rather than risk driving to an emergency room. The team tapped Atlanta-based Avid Design to develop a communication plan, including public service announcements, the development of a Web page ( and the creation of educational DVDs.

"In partnership with the American Heart Association, these five hospitals that make up what we call the Metro Atlanta Cardiology Consortium, took it upon themselves to do more to save lives, and that mission was shared with the communication officers at each organization in an effort to highlight the importance of dialing 911 in the event of a heart attack, while also providing important information to help in recognizing when an individual may be suffering from a heart attack. We'll never be able to eliminate heart attacks completely, but the Atlanta metro area may be one of the best places in America to be in the event of a heart attack--in large part because of this level of medical collaboration," said Brooke Edmondson, Atlanta American Heart Association Communications Director.

As part of the TIME program, full 12-lead electrocardiographic (EKG) units have been placed in all of the ambulances that respond to 9-1-1 calls in Fulton County. All of these units have the capability to transmit the EKG immediately to one of the five hospitals that have been equipped with receiving units. The emergency physician at the hospital reads the EKG and activates the emergency catheterization team. Since the diagnosis can be made before the patient arrives, delays of registration and testing at the hospital can be avoided. Protocols have been established in each of the hospitals to streamline the movement.

"The Atlanta TIME Project is the first cooperative urban program in the United States developed to provide the most rapid response to a cardiac emergency by improving every step of care from the onset of symptoms to treatment at the hospital," says Bryan McNally, MD, emergency medicine physician at Emory University Hospital and co-director of the TIME program. "The time from the onset of the heart attack to the opening of the artery is critical in reducing heart damage and improving survival."

"Although all hospitals work on shortening the time of arrival to opening the artery, the TIME program concentrates on shortening the time from the onset of symptoms to stopping the attack with angioplasty," says Spencer King, MD, chair of interventional cardiology at the Fuqua Heart Center of Atlanta at Piedmont Hospital and co-director of the program.

For more information about the TIME program, please visit

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