BRATTLEBORO — In rolling out a new program to research the use of ultrasound equipment by paramedics, Rescue Inc. wants the technology to become part of what is considered "the standard of care."
"We're very excited about this project," Rescue Chief Drew Hazelton said Wednesday at a press conference at Rescue Inc. on Canal Street. "We're excited about helping kind of move EMS forward in this state of Vermont. This is groundbreaking technology to better treat our patients and better design our EMS system."
The emergency medical service started in 1966. Hazelton said it serves about 32,000 people in 15 communities in southern Vermont and New Hampshire.
Mark Considine, director of quality assurance, said the new Point of Care Ultrasound Project will provide his group an additional assessment tool. A piece of equipment known as a probe is used to help better identify the best course of clinical treatment or protocol.
Probes are usually attached to another machine, Considine said, but Rescue is able to use I-pad devices on calls in the field.
"The probe transmits a sound wave into the human body," he said. "It's reflected back and interpreted by the probe. That creates an image of what's actually going on in the human body."
Considine said the state has endorsed the research project, which is anticipated to span about two years. About 600 scans each year or about 50 each month are to go into a database.
A small group of staff members are going to be trained on how to use the technology. Physicians from Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and University of Vermont Medical Center will lead those sessions.
Considine expects many other EMS providers will follow suit.
"We want to be one of the ones on the forefront," he said. "It's a little risky. It's an unknown domain. Those who are selected, it's a fairly hefty training component. But we believe it's to the benefit of Rescue as a system. It demonstrates our commitment to quality and most importantly, it's going to be a tremendous benefit to our patients."
Paramedic Christine Hume said that like in the world of business, where she previously worked, patient care needs to be "progressive, innovative and forward moving."
Rescue "can really set the benchmark for other organizations to follow," she added. "You know, we've got really valuable resources."
Dr. Jim Suozzi, medical director for Rescue, called the program "pretty incredible."
"Because I've seen ultrasounds sort of evolve since I was in training," he said. "This used to be something only the radiologists did, then it moved into critical care, ICUs, emergency medicine as a bedside machine."
Suozzi said the tool would not cause harm or pain to the patient.
"There's no radiation involved in it so it's completely safe," he said. "We use this now to assess a trauma patient whose blood pressure is low and we can assess if there's food in the belly, maybe there's bleeding going on in the abdomen. We can assess if there's a collapsed lung contributing to their low blood pressure."
He said the tool can help make assessments of patients dealing with shock or cardiac arrest.
Marc B. Schauber, founder and president of The Emergency Medical Services Fund Inc. of Dover, said he hopes the research goes well and can be used throughout the state and elsewhere. His group provided two grants: $11,350 for training and education, and $5,497 for the cost of three sets of equipment.
One set will be for training. The others will be used by personnel at Rescue's Brattleboro and Townshend facilities.
Shauber started the nonprofit in 2013 as a way to help mostly small EMS crews provide the same level of care seen in urban communities. It provided funding to Deerfield Valley Rescue in Wilmington for a training room and new cardiac monitor.
"Rescue is our second one in Vermont," said Shauber.
Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Windham-Bennington, told Rescue "nice job" on being the first in the state to use the ultrasound equipment.
Suozzi said the equipment has been used overseas and he believes it is slowly making a debut out of the hospital setting around the United States. He sees it becoming used more and more in the next five years.
"It's going to revolutionize medicine," said Considine.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.