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An App For Improving Heart Attack Care

Imagine a heart-attack victim who doesn't have to wait to see a doctor. What if a cardiologist were right there in the ambulance, starting treatment and sending tests back to the OR to prep for surgery? This is the world of CodeHeart, a smartphone and tablet app developed at Washington Hospital Center that brings emergency physicians, specialists, and, soon, first responders face to face to consult on a patient experiencing a heart attack--significantly cutting down on wait times and saving lives.

CodeHeart is the brainchild of Lowell Satler, the hospital's director of interventional cardiology, who believes telemedicine technologies like this are poised to revolutionize health care. His app allows doctors to video-conference easily and to exchange information through an iPhone, iPad, or Android device on a secure network compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Before CodeHeart, doctors would send tests such as electrocardiograms back and forth to one another via fax, which could take several minutes. Now they can stream live video of the test simply by holding it up to their phone's camera.

"By talking face to face, you can feel the situation better," Satler says. "The human interaction makes us understand the problem better."

Since introducing CodeHeart in 2010, Washington Hospital Center has cut down wait times for heart-attack patients by as much as 20 percent. Nine local hospitals have started using the technology.

"This type of communication will improve and improve," Satler says."This is all just beginning."

Read all of the 'Saving Lives with Science' pieces about our 2013-2014 Top Hospitals.

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Posted at 4:00 PM/ET, 10/02/2014
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