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Review Article

Rural emergency medical technician pre-hospital electrocardiogram transmission

Submitted: 5 June 2013
Revised: 13 September 2013
Accepted: 14 September 2013
Published: 2 May 2014

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Author(s) : Powell AM, Halon JM, Nelson J.

Citation: Powell AM, Halon JM, Nelson J.  Rural emergency medical technician pre-hospital electrocardiogram transmission. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2014; 14: 2690. Available: (Accessed 24 October 2017)


Introduction:  Emergent care of the acute heart attack patient continues to be at the forefront of quality and cost reduction strategies throughout the healthcare industry. Although the average cardiac door-to-balloon (D2B) times have decreased substantially over the past few years, there are still vast disparities found in D2B times in populations that reside in rural areas. Such disparities are mostly related to prolonged travel time and subsequent delays in cardiac catherization lab team activation. Urban ambulance companies that are routinely staffed with paramedic level providers have been successful in the implementation of pre-hospital 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) protocols as a strategy to reduce D2B times.
Method:  The authors sought to evaluate the evidence related to the risk and benefits associated with the replication of an ECG transmission protocol in a small rural emergency medical service. The latter is staffed with emergency medical technician–basics (EMT-B), emergency medical technician–advanced (EMT-A), and emergency medical technician–intermediate (EMT-I) level.
Results:  The evidence reviewed was limited to studies with relevant data regarding the challenges and complexities of the ECG transmission process, the difficulties associated with ECG transmission in rural settings, and ECG transmission outcomes by provider level.
Conclusions:  The evidence supports additional research to further evaluate the feasibility of ECG transmission at the non-paramedic level. Multiple variables must be investigated including equipment cost, utilization, and rural transmission capabilities. Clearly, pre-hospital ECG transmission and early activation of the cardiac catheterization laboratory are critical components to successfully decreasing D2B times.

Key words: ECG, electrocardiogram, emergency medical technician, EMT, rural, transmission.

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