With member-clients in more than a dozen countries, this Fargo-based medical education company is helping save lives across the globe.
When Dr. Tim Henry, a world-renowned cardiologist and the director of cardiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Beverly Hills, is asked why he’s willing to serve as the chief medical advisor to a niche startup based in Fargo, N.D., his answer is simple. His answer is actually a story, a story about an elderly man he operated on in Minneapolis a couple of years ago.
So there’s a 75-year-old gentleman who’s on his treadmill in his house. And he lives in a tiny little town without
a hospital, with a volunteer paramedic service. And he has a cardiac arrest, and his daughter does CPR, the volunteers arrive, they put on an AED and he gets shocked.
“The volunteer paramedics take him to a local town called New Prague, but this town doesn’t have a PCI hospital, so it’s the secondary place. But the helicopter is waiting there because they’ve
called. And then he gets transferred,
by helicopter, to the Minneapolis Heart Institute. And he gets shocked, total in all this time, 75 or 80 times.
“And he comes in and by the time he gets to us in the hospital, he’s already
cooled. And he has the Widow Maker (when the front artery down the front of the heart is either totally blocked or has a critical blockage). We do a PCI very quickly, but the initial rejection fraction is probably 15 percent. And he’s intubated and sedated because he’s been shocked all those times.
“(We operate) and then I walk out to the place where families are, and there are like 30 people there. So he has – if you take all his kids and relatives – more than 100 people that he and his wife
are responsible for. The chances of this person surviving 10 years ago was really zero.
“This was on a Friday. I come back
into the hospital on a Monday and he’s reading his computer and says, ‘You’re Dr. Henry. You’re the one who did the procedure.’ And that was our motivation for trying to do this is because if we had pre-hospital ECGs everywhere, if we had a combination of automated reading plus paramedic over-reading, we would do this a lot better.”
If some of that was over your head, don’t feel bad, because
it is for Tommy Leikas, too. Leikas is a Fargo entrepreneur and the nephew of Dr. Henry, and while Leikas doesn’t have
a medical background himself, what he does have is 10 years of experience as an entrepreneur in Internet and e-commerce ventures.
When he was visiting his uncle out in Los Angeles a little
more than a year ago, the two of them got to talking about how they could combine their respective expertises to try and solve one of the more pressing, heart-related medical issues worldwide.
Leikas started learning more about a number of the health and financial problems that arise due to inadequate ECG interpretation by pre-hospital medical workers such as paramedics and nurses, hooked up with well-known South Carolina re captain and paramedic Tom Bouthillet, and the two of them – along with Dr. Henry – came up with the idea that would eventually become ECG Medical Training.
ECG Medical Training is a video module-based platform that
educates healthcare workers around the globe about proper ECG-interpretation procedures, from the most basic to the most advanced.
We sat down with Leikas to learn a little more about how this seemingly niche service is helping to save lives both at home and abroad.
Q & A
Understanding that this is a highly complicated subject, how would you explain some of the issues ECG Medical Training is trying to solve, in broad strokes?
Tommy Leikas: “One of our goals is to reduce false positives. What this means is that a provider in the eld, pre-hospital, says that a patient is going into cardiac arrest, when in fact
they are not. And there are an alarmingly high percentage of false positives.
“A cardiologist will get paged,
come in – along with their entire team – to operate, when in reality, they weren’t going into cardiac arrest. The team didn’t need to be called. And that’s
a huge expense for hospitals. Our top priority is to empower providers to make better clinical decisions, faster. By interpreting the 12-lead ECG, correlating it to the patient’s clinical condition, identifying high risk features, making wise decisions, and reducing false positives, we will enhance the systems of care that save lives.”
We should probably take a step back and clarify, for anyone who isn’t sure, what an ECG is.
TL: It’s a test that shows you what’s happening with the electrical activity of the heart. An important piece outside of just the ECG is, ‘What’s happening? What are the vital signs?’ If you only see an ECG but you don’t see the patient, you don’t have the entire picture.”
It’s not the supply side of things, such as access to machines and equipment, that’s an issue, correct? It’s the interpretation of the information being provided.
TL: “We’re an education-focused organization. It’s nothing to do with equipment or access. It’s teaching the subject matter. And it’s deeper than just teaching someone the basics. Most education oversimpli es the subject matter, which causes issues. So we’re going deeper in an effort to help solve some real problems.”
You’ve compared your videos to those of well-known platforms such as Khan Academy and Lynda. You also say that ECG videos are, on average, about 10 minutes long. Was keeping the videos short a priority?
TL: “Yes. Not too many people in this day and age want to
sit down and listen to a two- hour lecture. The term we use
is ‘snackable.’ We have very focused subject matter, and some of the longer learning modules we break into multiple parts. It’s also so you don’t need to take two days off work to consume our content.
“It’s also an ongoing process. There’s a core course with 40 videos that we recommend every provider starts with, but then we drip in new content monthly to make it more of a community versus, ‘Buy our course, start, end and you’re done.’ Because you should always be sharpening your pencil.”
What do you see as the biggest advantage for this system of content delivery?
TL: “All in, you’re easily over $1,000 to go to a traditional brick-and-mortar seminar:
• Flight: $600+
• Hotel: $350+
• Registration fee: $200
• Plus 2-3 days’ time, which is dif cult for medical professionals
“Also, accessibility. If you’re a paramedic in Vietnam, a seminar isn’t even an option. Our solution creates really hard, rare content accessible worldwide, on demand.”
Are you planning to expand this concept and branch out into other medical issues?
TL: “Absolutely. This is one
very niche topic. The vision is
to expand into dozens of other niche topics. We’re taking it one step at a time.”