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A group of Penn Medicine researchers Led by Dr. Raina Merchant , an emergency physician and resuscitation expert, is launching a crowdsourcing contest this Fall that will use a smartphone app to plot the locations of Philadelphia's public automated external defibrillators (AED) which are used to restore cardiac arrest victims' hearts to their normal rhythm.
The MyHeartMap Challenge a great idea among a growing trend toward using crowdsourcing to find solutions to troubling problems in health care, are inviting people to use app to tag the photos with location information and details about the device like its color and manufacturer.
The Penn contest aims to catalog those devices and build an app using the database of AED locations which will link to a person's GPS coordinates and help them locate the nearest AED during an emergency. There's an estimated one million AEDs across the nation, hung clearly on the walls in airports and casinos, but also tucked away in restaurant closets and under the cash register in coffee shop.
According to Penn Medicine news blog, unlike implantable medical devices like pacemakers and artificial knees and joints whose model or serial numbers are reflected in a patient's medical record, in order to notify them in the event of a manufacturer's recall or other problem, AEDs are not subject to regulations that would allow their makers to know where or when their devices are being used.
Instead, anyone can buy the devices (they cost about $1,500), but what they do with them after that is anyone's guess.
A grateful cardiac arrest survivor, for instance, might buy one for their gym to keep on hand -- but if no one at the gym knows where it is, or that it's on site at all, its lifesaving powers can't be counted on in an emergency.
“There could be a AED in the room upstairs or across the street and you’d have no way of knowing,” said Eric Stone, co-director of the MyHeartMap Challenge, to Fast Company magazine. In Philadelphia, the contest wants to change this reality using the power of the crowd.
The automated external defibrillator is a computerized medical device that can check a person's heart rhythm. It can recognize a rhythm that requires shock. And it can also advise the rescuer when a shock is needed. The AED uses voice prompts, lights and text messages to tell the rescuer the steps to take.
Dr. Merchant said the Philadelphia contest is just a first step in what the group hopes will grow to become a nationwide AED registry project that will put access to AEDs in the hands of anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Merchant hopes word of the contest will spread over Facebook and Twitter with the power of social media mixing with the power of a mobile app to create the first comprehensive log of AEDs all over Philly.
In a statement to Fast Company magazine. Dr Merchant said that without public participation, “it would take years to be able to do this for the whole country.” But by using people as remote sensors, Merchant thinks tracking down the estimated one million AEDs across the country is possible.
“We’re just beginning to understand how to use these tools to connect people with resources. It could work in a multitude of ways,” she said.
Individuals and teams can register to participate, and the Penn group is hopeful that participants will have fun with the contest -- maybe organizing AED scavenger hunts, mini-contests to locate all the AEDs in a workplace building, or taking on their friends to see who can find the most devices.
Reborn to life
This story behind the story is told on the Penn Medicine news blog.
Mike Hoaglin, now a fourth-year medical student at Penn, already knew how to do Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) back in April when he came across a man in cardiac arrest on a busy Center City Philadelphia sidewalk.
A cardiac arrest is a condition that claims 300,000 American lives each year, more than AIDS and lung, breast and prostate cancers combined.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency procedure which is performed in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person in cardiac arrest.
He and a nurse on the scene -- still in her scrubs from work -- began CPR once they determined the man had no pulse, but the person they sent to find an AED -- which they knew was also essential for resuscitating the man -- didn't have any luck.
A nearby drugstore and restaurants turned up nothing. Minutes passed as Hoaglin and the other bystanders continued performing CPR and waited for an ambulance to arrive.
Finally, a fellow Penn Med student, Katie Dillon, arrived on the scene with an AED after remembering that her apartment close by kept one of the devices at the front desk. With a shock from the AED and continued CPR, the man's pulse returned even before the ambulance arrived, and following bypass surgery to re-route blood supply to his heart, he returned home doing well.
But those tense minutes could have been narrowed to just a few seconds with the help of a tool like Merchant's team hopes to create.
Join the team
Sign up now on the MyHeartMap Challenge web site to stay in the loop about the contest, download the mobile app once it becomes available, and join the challenge to save lives with your cell phone.
There are lots of ways to participate: you can play as an individual or team, you can use your social network or go solo, you can win a prize by tagging one AED or thousands of AED.
In the near future the map will be available in an emergency. Just call 911 to discover where to find the nearest device, or you look it on your cell phone.