Leon County EMS Adapts to Pandemic with Innovative Technology to...
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Leon County EMS Adapts to Pandemic with Innovative Technology to Teach CPR

By Chad Abrams, Chief of Emergency Medical Services, Leon County Government

Chad Abrams, Chief of Emergency Medical Services, Leon County Government

Citizens rely on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to provide expert response and care during medical emergencies and technology has played a pivotal role in the ability of EMS agencies to consistently deliver the best care available. The proliferation of technology has allowed paramedics to provide advanced diagnostic testing to patients, resulting in improvements in mortality and morbidity.  Some EMS systems have even deployed mobile CT scanners to assist in the early treatment of people suffering from strokes. The global COVID-19 pandemic has exposed additional applications for technology including the increased use of telemedicine products to limit the number and types of patients being transported by EMS from their homes to hospitals and between medical facilities. 

During the pandemic an unexpected public health concern arose as EMS systems across the country reported more patients refusing to be transported to a hospital for definitive care even during life-threatening emergencies. Researchers found that In April 2020, there was a 20% increase in the number of EMS responses where the patient refused to go to the hospital. Correspondently, there was a 35% increase in the number of EMS responses for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest during that same time frame.

Cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart unexpectedly stops pumping blood. Without immediate intervention they will die. According to the American Heart Association, in the United States more than 350,000 people annually experience cardiac arrest outside of the hospital. Early bystander intervention with the delivery of effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is key to survival, as a person’s chance of survival falls by 7-10% per minute when CPR is not being performed. Bystander CPR has been found to double the chances of survival. 

Communities have always had the challenge of increasing bystander recognition of and intervention to a person in cardiac arrest. Due to a strategic effort to train citizens in CPR, increase the availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the community and the deployment of an advanced EMS system, Leon County, FL has cardiac arrest survival statistics 170% better than the national average.

“The proliferation of technology has allowed paramedics to provide advanced diagnostic testing to patients, resulting in improvements in mortality and morbidity”

Training citizens in CPR is so important to improving the chances of survival; the Board of County Commissioners included training 8,500 citizens in CPR/AED use as a five-year target in their strategic plan. Annually, the County hosts a free community-wide CPR training event “Press the Chest” where over 500 citizens are trained in CPR in one location at the same time. With the need for social distancing and the limitations applied to group gatherings as a vital strategy in combating COVID-19, a new and innovative program for delivering CPR training was created. 

Leon County EMS staff identified the CPR Anytime Training Kits as a resource that includes an instructional video and inflatable CPR mannequin. To assist with alleviating the apprehension that people express with learning and performing CPR staff developed a plan to host virtual training sessions using web conference technology. The virtual training sessions are conducted by a Paramedic that is also a certified CPR instructor. These virtual training sessions are meant to provide citizens with reassurance on their ability to make a difference during an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest event. 

Marketing of the program relied on a social media campaign which highlighted the need to be prepared to help a loved one during an emergency. In 2019, 70% of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurred in a residential setting. With the pandemic mitigation strategies resulting in more people being at home with family, it goes to reason that there is an increased chance of a cardiac arrest occurring at home and the need for family members to know what to do. 

All marketing materials provided links to the County website where citizens could register to obtain a CPR Anytime Training kit by picking it up at the one of the seven library branch locations of their choice.  EMS staff members then followed-up with those citizens that picked up a training kit and provided opportunities for participation in a virtual training session. 

To encourage maximum results and preparedness, participants were encouraged to conduct the training with their household members. Community based social groups were provided the opportunity to pick-up the training kits and then participate in a group specific virtual training event. 

Participants were asked to complete a survey upon completion of the training program and we’re happy to report that of the surveys completed, all participants indicated that the program helped them to be better prepared to assist someone in cardiac arrest. Participants also believed that this training program was innovative.

Combined, these strategies have resulted in over 300 CPR Anytime Training Kits being distributed and close to 500 citizens being trained in CPR in just two months! Without the availability of the various technology resources used to make this program successful, no CPR training would have been possible.

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