An electrocardiogram technician improves in-hospital first medical contact-to-electrocardiogram times: a cluster randomized controlled interventional trial

Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Nov;30(9):1729-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2012.01.029. Epub 2012 Mar 29.


Background: In the case of chest pain, the current guidelines require electrocardiogram (ECG) recording and patient assessment within 10 minutes upon arrival in the emergency department.

Methods: We investigated the effect of an ECG technician (ECG-T) on in-hospital first medical contact-to-ECG times (iFMC-to-ECG) investigated in a cluster randomized, controlled trial. Allocation of intervention was concealed. Staff satisfaction and feasibility was defined as a secondary outcome. Delays between ECG and the availability of an emergency physician and the assessment of ECG were additionally evaluated.

Results: A total of 163 (44 clusters) and 191 (47 clusters) patients were allocated to control and intervention, respectively. Twenty-seven (17%) of 163 patients in the control group vs 110 (58%) of 191 patients in the intervention group received ECG registration within 10 minutes (risk ratio, 3.40 [2.24-5.15]; P < .001). The iFMC-to-ECG time was 23 (95% confidence interval [CI], 20-27) minutes for the control group vs 9 (95% CI, 8-11) minutes for the intervention group (P < .001). Nursing staff judged the feasibility of intervention with a median of 1 (interquartile range [IQR], 1-1 (on a scale of 1 [best] to 5 [worst]), perceived workload alleviation with a median of 1 (IQR, 1-1), and improvement of quality of care with a median of 1 (IQR, 1-2). The ECG-to-EP time was 78 (95% CI, 64-92) seconds, and diagnosis was made within 17 (95% CI, 16-18) seconds.

Conclusions: Delays of iFMC-to-ECG can be effectively addressed by implementation of an ECG-T. The service of an ECG-T is feasible and improves staff satisfaction. Both ECG-to-EP time and ECG assessment constitute no relevant delay.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Electrocardiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Medical Technicians* / standards
  • Emergency Medical Technicians* / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Time Factors
  • Workforce

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN68587870