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Smartphone app aims to improve cardiac arrest survival rates

Shamane Mills

Wisconsin Public Radio

The odds of surviving when your heart stops beating are against you if you don't get immediate emergency care. The Madison Fire Department is hoping to improve survival rates for area residents with the help of a smartphone app that can get trained first responders on the scene more quickly. 

There were more than 400 cardiac arrest cases in Dane County in 2016, according to the department. And about three-quarters of cases in Madison were in homes. When people call 911, the nearest on-duty medical responder may be miles away, so the department is starting a pilot program for off-duty firefighters and paramedics that alerts them on their smart phone when someone within a quarter mile is having heart trouble.

"So the idea of this program is to allow our firefighters, off duty, to allow them to get notification when someone needs help," said Madison Fire Department Division Chief Scott Bavery. "Statistics show us that early onset of CPR, good-quality CPR, and occasional use of an AED (automated external defibrillator) we can actually increase survivability rates."

Nearly 150 city firefighters have volunteered to be part of the PulsePoint Verified Responder program. The program uses the same technology that’s been available in Madison since 2015 and used by citizens who have CPR training.

More than 26,000 people have downloaded the PulsePoint app to help them locate and help those having heart problems in public places.  During that time there have been 221 PulsePoint alerts to bystanders who were within a quarter-mile radius of someone in cardiac arrest, said Fire Department public information officer Cynthia Schuster.

Access to the PulsePoint app is funded by the UnityPoint Health-Meriter Foundation. 

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2017, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. Find more WPR news on KUWS-FM 91.3 or wpr.org.

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