Text app reduces time to administer care in heart attack patients

Ambulance staff using the mobile text messaging application WhatsApp were able to administer treatment to heart attack patients more quickly leading to lower mortality rates than staff without the app, according to a study presented at the Argentine Congress of Cardiology (SAC 2017).

"More than 42,000 heart attacks occur in Argentina every year," said first author Nicolás Lalor, a cardiologist at Cardiovascular Institute of Buenos Aires in Sanatorio Anchorena, Argentina. "Patients have the best chance of survival when they receive primary angioplasty to restore blood flow to blocked arteries within 90 minutes of contacting the health service. Numerous delays can occur before and after patients reach the hospital which lead to this treatment target being missed."

In the study, which aimed to evaluate the app's ability to reduce care time, the free messaging app was used to send diagnostic electrocardiograms (ECGs) to hospital catheterization laboratories and bypass patients to the emergency department. Researchers enrolled 896 patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) between 2012 and 2016. Patients were then sorted by hospital admission by three routes including arriving by themselves (211), arriving by ambulance to the emergency room (325) and arriving by ambulance to the cath lab (360 patients). In the third group, an ambulance doctor performed an ECG on arrival. If STEMI was diagnosed, the ECG was sent through WhatsApp on a smartphone to a cardiologist at the hospital where the cath lab would be set up for the patient’s arrival.

Results found the patients in the WhatsApp group had a significantly lower time between symptoms onset and treatment at 150 minutes than patients in the other groups at 200 minutes. Additionally, overall mortality was measured at 0.83 percent in group 3 while the rate was 3.17 percent when patients arrived by themselves.

"We found that notifying the cath lab in advance using WhatsApp and transferring patients directly from the ambulance, bypassing the emergency department, led to quicker treatment and better outcomes for patients with STEMI. Advanced notification enables hospital staff to prepare the cath lab and the doctor is ready to start primary angioplasty when the patient arrives,” said Lalor. "Using WhatsApp on a smartphone is a cheap and easy way for ambulance and hospital doctors to communicate and we will be rolling this procedure out to other hospitals in Argentina."