New emergency response system will streamline response

Aug 5, 2011

In some counties in Washington, access to emergency care is among the best in the nation. But in other parts of the state there are fewer paramedics and specialists to respond to heart attacks and strokes.

A new emergency response system will reduce the time it takes for patients to get the treatment they need. 

Until now, if you have a heart attack or stroke, you might be taken to the closest hospital then transferred to another hospital if the first one isn’t able to provide specialized care. The Emergency Cardiac and Stroke system speeds access to life-saving treatment by standardizing the guidelines used in these situations.

Kathy Schmitt with the Washington State department of health says the existing system works well in some parts of the state but hasn’t worked consistently across the state, especially in some rural communities.

“Establishing some minimum standards ensures that regardless of where you are, or where you live, or where you’re traveling in Washington you’re more assured that if you suffer a cardiac episode or stroke that you will indeed get the right treatment in time.”

The right treatment in the right time can mean the difference between life and death, or permanent disability. And Schmitt says calling 911 at the first sign of a stroke is the best way to let the coordinated system kick into gear.

Currently about half of all people who experience heart attack or stroke symptoms get a ride from a loved one or drive themselves to the hospital and that can ultimately delay treatment. The new emergency response system is expected to be up and running in most counties by the end of the year.