When a person’s heart suddenly stops beating, when their breathing becomes shallow, and they drift in and out of consciousness, they need help as soon as they can get it. Witnesses and bystanders can call 911 and shout for help, but without immediate life-saving measures, death is imminent.
Seconds count. And now, community stakeholders are looking to enlist residents in the county’s emergency response efforts with the help of a smartphone that alerts those with CPR training to a nearby medical issue.
Hancock Regional Hospital and the local emergency dispatch center have partnered to bring the $18,000 program, called PulsePoint, to Hancock County. The app uses GPS to alert specially trained residents to a medical emergency that’s happening near them in a public place. The app provides the address of the emergency and shows a map with the location pinpointed.
PulsePoint’s software seamlessly integrates with the computer programs dispatchers use to send police, fire and medical personnel to an emergency.
Now, when a call about a cardiac arrest comes into 911 center, PulsePoint will automatically recognize the address and send out an alert to any nearby participants’ cellphones, telling them someone in their vicinity needs help. The person with the means to save a life could be sitting at home, or out casually sipping a cup of coffee.
“It’s the electronic way of saying, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?'” said Shannon Smith, a PulsePoint spokeswoman. “By using technology, we can now shout that a quarter mile wide.”
The app, available through the Apple Store or Google Play, is expected to go live locally in the coming months, officials said.
PulsePoint was created in 2009 by a California fire chief, Richard Price, who was frustrated by an experience he had in his west-coast community, Smith said.
Price was eating a restaurant one afternoon, and in the building right next door, a man collapsed after suffering sudden cardiac arrest, she said. The chief watched as a series of ambulances from his own department rolled past where he was sitting. He knew some sort of medical emergency was nearby, a crew headed to a call his department-issued radio wasn’t set to receive.
Price came to find out later the patient had died because CPR wasn’t started quickly enough, and he was aggravated that he’d been just yards away from the man, never knowing he needed help, Smith said.
So Price, with the help of his firefighters and a team of technical experts, created PulsePoint in the hopes of making it easier for those with CPR training to help save lives.
Cardiac arrests are some of the most common medical issue, experts say. Each year, some 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen across the nation, according to the American Heart Association.
The app seeks to bridge the time between when a collapse occurs and when life-saving help is administered — the “chain of survivability,” as Smith calls it.
Medics from area fire departments can’t be there as immediately as some cardiac arrest patients might need, said RJ Beaver, the EMS chief for the Greenfield Fire Territory. PulsePoint can ensure someone is there to help before the real help arrives.
The app creates no extra work for local 911 dispatchers, director John Jokantas added.
PulsePoint recognizes when a dispatcher queues up a cardiac arrest-related call on their computer, and it automatically sends out the alert to anyone within a quarter-mile radius.
The program recognizes only commercial and business addresses, along with any others that officials have labeled as public places, Jokantas said; the app does not sent out alert for medical emergencies in private residences.
Hancock Regional Hospital paid about $18,000 to make the app available in Hancock County. The hospital has committed to paying $8,000 annually to keep the program up and running.
Rob Matt, the hospital’s CFO, said Hancock Health was happy to foot the bill for the program because its leaders believe it will do a lot of good it can do in the community.
Matt said he hopes use of the app inspires more people to be CPR certified or undergo first-aid training so that they, too, can help others.