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Effort Gaining Momentum to Enhance Rural Health Care

Improving rural health care - including providing easy access to devices such as a 12-lead mobile ECG machine - is the goal of the Mission: Lifeline program. (American Heart Association)
Improving rural health care - including providing easy access to devices such as a 12-lead mobile ECG machine - is the goal of the Mission: Lifeline program. (American Heart Association)
March 3, 2016

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Mission: Lifeline program is a three-year initiative organized by the American Heart Association – bringing together Iowa's health systems, hospital networks, EMS providers and the Iowa Department of Public Health - to improve patient outcomes and reduce mortality, no matter where the patient is located.

Dr. Edward Zajac, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Associates of Sioux City, chairs the Mission: Lifeline task force. He says Iowa's rural landscape can make getting quality care to rural patients difficult.

"There needs to be a time period from when the heart attack begins to when you can do the most benefit in opening up an artery,” he explains. “For people who are in a more rural area of the state, there are some delays."

The goal of Mission: Lifeline is to extend quality care to rural areas so outcomes mirror those in more urban areas of Iowa. The group is inviting Iowa lawmakers to a session at the Capitol this morning to learn more about the mission’s request for a one-time appropriation of $1.5 million to support the effort.

Doctors say that time is muscle and that extended time without treatment can irreparably damage the heart muscle.

"It's very important that patients who are having an acute heart attack get care very expediently, and preferably that care be in a cardiac catheterization laboratory where they can have the vessel which is occluded with their heart attack opened very quickly," Zajac stresses.

The Mission: Lifeline program focuses on equipping rural emergency care professionals with equipment to help diagnose and treat heart attacks before patients even arrive at a hospital.

The program also provides education to the public. Zajac notes that many people who are having a heart attack think they can drive themselves to the hospital, but that actually can adversely affect their care.

"There is very clear data that 10 minutes can have dramatic effects on survivability and dramatic effects on the rest of your life, as far as quality of life," he points out.

Zajac advises that an ambulance be called, because the initial treatment given in a patient's living room prior to a trip to the hospital can greatly improve the chance of survival.


Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA