February 23, 2015 | by

How a Smartphone App Can Help You Save a Life

App notifies you of nearby sudden cardiac arrests

When someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest, they need immediate help. That’s because the chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest drops 10 percent for every minute that passes before they receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

A smartphone app called PulsePoint Respond aims to solve that problem by connecting people struck by sudden cardiac arrest with the people who can give them help during the time it takes for emergency medical service (EMS) workers to arrive.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and becomes irregular. The heart beats dangerously fast and blood is not distributed to the body. In the first few minutes, blood flow to the brain may be reduced so drastically that a person loses consciousness. Death follows unless treatment is begun immediately.

Finding help

With emergency medical workers taking an average of seven minutes to arrive at an address — let alone locate the patient at the address — the PulsePoint app crowdsources lifesaving help for people with sudden cardiac arrest, says Thomas Beers, Manager of Emergency Medical Services at Cleveland Clinic.

The app, which is available free on iTunes and Google Play, is integrated into the 911 procedures of 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.

The alert notifies app users only when an emergency is in a public place within a quarter-mile. The app uses a smart phone’s geolocation service to direct you to the sick person’s location and the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can deliver an electric shock to restore a normal rhythm.

About 1,100 cities and 22 states across the nation participate in the PulsePoint program, which is a project of the PulsePoint Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation based in the San Francisco Bay area.

Participating cities include Las Vegas and Los Angeles. In 2014, Cleveland Clinic sponsored the cost of the software integration for dispatch centers in the city of Cleveland and five suburban fire departments.

“Cleveland Clinic’s heart program continues to rank as the best in the nation and we saw it as a natural fit to bring the PulsePoint tool to Northeast Ohio,” says Brad Borden, MD, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Emergency Services Institute. “We hope that local citizens will join us in our fight to combat the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and encourage everyone who is trained in CPR to download and use the application.”

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.

“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 nearly 90 percent of its victims, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. It is the leading cause of death for people older than age 40.

Sudden cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, which occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries is blocked, preventing the heart from receiving enough oxygen-rich blood.

With sudden cardiac arrest, 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.

“The PulsePoint app engages people to work as a team to save a life,” Mr. Beers says. “The more people we have 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.”

Source: Cleveland Clinic