Patient survival rate increases with faster treatment following a myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack. We wrote previously about CathMaps+, a mobile app that can give directions to the closest hospital with a cardiac catheter lab and stores your medical history. CathMaps+ can store ECG readings as well. In that case, the app is used by the patient or friends or family members who have to get up to speed quickly on how to use the app in situations typically fraught with fear and confusion. According to When Minutes Matter, a fact sheet published by the American Heart Association, if a blocked artery isn’t reopened within 90 minutes, the chances for full recovery and even survival start to diminish significantly.

A new report shows smartphone messaging can speed treatment following a heart attack. Researchers from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) presented a study at the Argentine Congress of Cardiology (SAC) in Buenos Aires in October 2017. The observational study followed 896 patients in Argentina with STEMI, segment elevation myocardial infarction, taken to two hospitals from 2012 to 2016. The patients were in three groups: people who got to hospital admissions departments on their own, people who arrived at an emergency room by ambulance, and patients who were taken directly to cardiac catheter labs by ambulance. The last group bypassed normal admissions and emergency room delays, which resulted in significant time savings. Direct delivery to cath labs was possible because ambulance personnel took on-site ECG readings and used the WhatsApp cross-platform smartphone instant messaging service to transfer the ECG and other relevant information directly to hospital cardiologists. On average, the time delay between symptom onset and treatment was 150 minutes for the patients whose ECG was sent by WhatsApp compared to an average of 200 minutes for the other groups.

Faster treatment thanks to WhatsApp helped, but still didn’t reach or beat the optimal 90-minute time limit. Professor Michel Kormajda, ESC course director and past president, stressed that WhatsApp use is one strategy to reduce delays but also called for increased public awareness of common heart attack symptoms and the importance of calling emergency services.