How a Smartphone App Can Help You Save a Life

Users alerted to nearby sudden cardiac arrests can start CPR

Hearts around the Smart Phone

When someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest, immediate help can be life-saving. The chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest drops 10 percent for every minute that passes before they receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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That’s where “citizen responders” come in. Now, a smartphone app called PulsePoint Respond alerts you when someone nearby experiences a sudden cardiac arrest so that you can perform CPR during the wait for emergency medical service (EMS) workers.

EMS workers need an average of seven minutes to find an address — let alone locate the patient at that address. “PulsePoint ‘crowdsources’ the lifesaving help people with sudden cardiac arrest need,” explains EMS Manager Thomas Beers, EMT-P, EMS-I.

Emergency Services Institute Chair Brad Borden, MD, says, “We are gratified that local citizens have joined us in our fight to combat the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. In the past year, 7,000 citizen responders in the Cleveland area helped us save several additional lives. We encourage everyone who is trained in CPR to download and use this app.”

Different from a heart attack

A heart attack occurs when one or more coronary arteries are blocked, preventing the heart from receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. In contrast, in sudden cardiac arrest, the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and becomes irregular. The heart beats dangerously fast. Blood is not distributed to the body.

In the first few minutes, drastic reduction of blood flow to the brain can produce loss of consciousness. Death follows unless treatment begins immediately.

CPR keeps enough oxygen in the lungs and gets it to the brain until normal heart rhythm is restored with an electric shock to the chest through defibrillation.

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How the app works

The app is integrated into 911 procedures for participating cities. When emergency dispatchers receive a call regarding a suspected sudden cardiac arrest, they activate an alert to PulsePoint app users at the same time they dispatch local EMS.

App users are alerted only for emergencies occurring in public places within a quarter-mile. The smartphone’s geolocation service directs them to the sick person’s location and the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED). AEDs are portable devices that check the heart rhythm and can deliver an electric shock to restore it to normal.

The app, which can be downloaded free on iTunes and Google Play, is the product of the non-profit PulsePoint Foundation. About 1,100 cities and 22 states participate in its PulsePoint program. (Cleveland Clinic sponsored the cost of software integration for the City of Cleveland’s dispatch center and five suburban fire departments.)

Hands-only CPR

You don’t have to be formally trained in CPR to help save the life of someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. You can give hands-only CPR by simply pushing hard and fast in the center of the victim’s chest. The PulsePoint app has information on how to do hands-only CPR and even plays a ticking rhythm so you can time your life-saving pushes most effectively.

Having sudden cardiac arrest victims get CPR immediately is so important that in 2008, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised its recommendations to encourage bystanders without formal CPR training to use hands-only CPR in emergency situations.

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“If we don’t have people engaging in CPR early on, we’re way behind,” Mr. Beers says. “Without CPR, there’s very little chance we can save them.”

Leading killer

Sudden cardiac arrest affects about 1,000 people a day across the country and claims the lives of nearly 90 percent of them. It is the leading cause of death for people over age 40.

“The PulsePoint app engages people to work as a team to save a life,” Mr. Beers says. “The more people out there with this app who can catch the alert, the more likely they can help others in need and give them a better chance for survival.”

 

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