Physicians in Argentina slash treatment time for heart attack patients using WhatsApp

A free messaging app is helping Argentinian doctors diagnose and treat heart attack patients more quickly, leading to reduced rates of mortality from sudden cardiac arrest.

Clinicians have been using the smartphone application WhatsApp to transmit medical data between emergency care responders and hospital-based doctors, the European Society of Cardiology announced in a release Thursday.

In a related study, ambulance doctors who responded to at-home or public reports of cardiac arrest took an electrocardiogram (ECG) immediately upon arriving onsite. If the patient was diagnosed with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the doctor would use WhatsApp to transmit those ECG results to a cardiologist at one of two nearby hospitals in Beunos Aires, where hospital staff could preemptively prepare a catheterization lab.

The patient, then, could bypass the emergency department, saving on average 50 minutes, according to the research.

“Using WhatsApp on a smartphone is a cheap and easy way for ambulance and hospital doctors to communicate, and we will be rolling this procedure out to other hospitals in Argentina,” Nicolas Lalor, the first author of the study, said in the news release.

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