In March, Chad Richter received a call about a man who had low oxygen saturation levels but felt fine. At the scene, Richter, the Williamson County senior medical officer, determined the man had no shortness of breath and that his lungs were clear.
Less than a week prior, Richter and his team might have been at a loss on how to treat him. However, Richter’s Hutto-based ambulance was outfitted with a Phillips Lumify
portable ultrasound machine as part of a 90-day study and was put to the test.
Having received training on how to use the machine, Richter said he noticed the way the light was refracting in the man’s lung as well as the presence of fluid.
Richter diagnosed the patient with pneumonia.
The Williamson County area is innovating health care with more than just ultrasound. By May, the public will also benefit from a Text to 911 program and software that brings immediate help to cardiac arrest patients.
The innovations are a big step in continuing to revolutionize medicine across the county, Williamson County EMS Capt. Dan Cohen said.
“Some of the improvements are things that paramedics on ambulances will bring to a patient’s door, and some of the other improvements are based on the technology that is available in everyone’s pocket,” Cohen said. “[These services] will allow members of the public to serve in a very important role.”
Williamson County EMS is one of three emergency services entities across the state participating in the 90-day ultrasound study led by Jason Bowman, a fourth-year medical
student at Texas A&M University.
Bowman, who plans to go into emergency medicine, started a similar ultrasound project when he worked in Keller—where he served as a paramedic and firefighter for 10 years prior to medical school.
He said he wanted to expand ultrasound use to more than just trauma-specific situations and see if the machines can be made more
useful in ambulances.
Phillips Lumify loaned Bowman five portable ultrasound machines. He outfitted Williamson County with two of them for the 90-day trial.
Other medical organizations across the country use ultrasounds in the field. But Bowman said he does not know of another paramedic-run EMS agency in the nation doing this level of
ultrasound study, specifically in the depth of cardiac procedures.
The machines can be used to locate veins for inserting an IV or find fluid in the lungs as well as diagnose an ectopic pregnancy.
The machine is plugged into a tablet with a display monitor. Richter said EMS personnel can record and save a loop of footage to share with doctors upon arrival to the
The county is logging each ultrasound use to measure its effectiveness. Data may be able to justify future purchase of ultrasound machines, Richter said.
“There really [is] a great potential to make a difference,” Richter said. “But we really want to base this on data before we spend anyone’s money.”
By mid-April, Williamson County will release PulsePoint, a mobile app that connects bystander CPR-trained individuals to reported cardiac arrests within a 400-yard radius in public places.
Cohen said a person in cardiac arrest nationally has approximately twice the rate of being discharged neurologically intact if a bystander has performed CPR.
“Our response times are very quick,” Cohen said. “But even if it only takes three to four minutes, that is still time the brain is not receiving blood and the heart is not receiving the blood and nutrients it needs to survive.”
The software pushes out an alert when 911 operators receive a call reporting a cardiac arrest so trained individuals can help before
emergency services arrive.
Cohen said cardiac arrest victims also have a better chance of survival when an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is used. The defibrillator works to correct the electrical activity in the heart using shocks.
Every defibrillator functions the same and calls directions to the operator out loud, Cohen said. Public places such as schools, large stadiums and airports all have AED machines on-site and the app notifies users where the closest machine is located.
Last year, 46 percent of all cardiac arrest patients in Williamson County had some form of bystander CPR before emergency services arrived. County officials are encouraging all residents who are trained in CPR and AED use to download the app and act if necessary.
“There are really only two interventions that improve survival,” Cohen said. “It’s actually the stuff available to the public. It’s early, high-quality chest compressions and early defibrillation.”
Cohen said the county offers Take 10 CPR classes, which teach people how to do proper chest compressions in 10 minutes.
“If everyone in the community who is physically able was willing to learn CPR, the survival rate everywhere in this country would be significantly higher,” Cohen said.
Williamson County residents can also expect to be able to send a text message to 911 by late May.
The software is crucial in helping those who cannot speak because of a threat, illness or medical condition, said GreggObuch Emergency Communications Director of the Capital Area Council of Governments. It can also be used if a caller has poor reception and cannot get a call out.
“This is just another way to contact 911,” Obuch said. “There are certain situations that you do not want to be talking on the phone.”
The service will be available to residents in 10 counties around the Central Texas area who use AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Although the software is another resource available in a dangerous situation, CAPCOG officials still encourage residents to “call if you can, and text if you can’t.”