By Eric Devlin
NORRISTOWN >> Montgomery County has launched a new free mobile app aimed at strengthening the chain of survival for cardiac arrest victims in the county.
The PulsePoint Respond app is connected to the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety 911 call center and will alert those who have the app and are CPR-trained whenever an ambulance is dispatched in response to a sudden cardiac arrest in a public area within a quarter-mile of their location. It will also show the location of the nearest Automatic External Defibrillator if it is registered with PulsePoint.
The app will not activate in hospitals, nursing homes or private homes, according to officials. Additionally, the app may not work for those looking to use the app on the edges of the county if their phone signal pings off of a non-Montgomery County cell phone tower.
The county contract for PulsePoint includes a one-time setup fee of $10,000, and an annual licensing fee of $18,000. Overall, the first year of the contract is $28,000, followed by $18,000 a year after that, according to the county.
Montgomery County is the first county in Southeastern Pennsylvania and the second in the state behind Allegheny County to launch this life-saving app.
On Wednesday, Montgomery County Commissioners Valerie Arkoosh, Ken Lawrence Jr. and Joe Gale joined Dr. Ben Usatch, EMS director at Lankenau Medical Center and medical director for the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety; Dr. Timothy Shapiro, Chief of Interventional Cardiology at Lankenau Medical Center; Don Lynch, chief of Harleysville Area EMS and president of the Montgomery County Ambulance Association, and Richard Sax, a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest, to discuss the life-saving value of this new technology.
“Bystander CPR and use of AEDs save lives. The Montgomery County PulsePoint app will help those trained in CPR reach victims in need,” said Arkoosh, the commissioners chairwoman. “We are proud to be working closely with local fire, police, EMS and others to spread the word about the technology and also encourage more residents to get trained in CPR, so they can become part of the Montco-PulsePoint team saving lives.”
“I’ve seen the dramatic difference it makes when someone who has suffered cardiac arrest has gotten CPR,” said Dr. Timothy Shapiro, Chief of Interventional Cardiology at Lankenau Medical Center. “This app will help save lives.”
“AEDs and CPR save lives,” Lawrence said. “We are excited to offer an opportunity for our first responders and CPR-trained residents to become part of a team that is focused on increasing the survival rates for those who go into sudden cardiac arrest.”
“I think it’s unbelievable to see how far technology has come that in this day and age. It’s as simple as getting an alert to your phone to know where someone is in need of assistance under cardiac arrest and you’re able to respond to the scene,” said Gale. “It’s really remarkable. So many people use their Androids and iPhones this day and age we can get people help when they need it.”
There is no database that will confirm whether individuals who download the app are certified in CPR, Arkoosh said. While her own CPR certification has “lapsed,” she said as an anesthesiologist, they didn’t always have to take the training coures as resuscitation would take place in the operating room. That said, she will be getting recertified and encouraged everyone to follow her lead by also taking a CPR course. The American Heart Association and the American Red Cross each have CPR training course locations listed on their websites.
For those unsure if they want to step in to help, Arkoosh said with an ambulance on the way, just doing chest compressions to a cardiac arrest victim, without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is just as effective as with it. The use of an AED and CPR is covered under the Good Samaritan Law, Arkoosh said, protecting those who want to help from liability.
In addition to calling on CPR-trained residents to sign up for the app, the Department of Public Safety is asking residents to use a second app to crowdsource locations of AEDs throughout the county. PulsePoint AED tracks the locations of publicly accessible AEDs in the community. The app allows users to drop a pin on a map and enter a description of the AED’s location, and then snap a picture of it. The information is stored for local authorities to verify. Once verified, the information will be made available on the PulsePoint Respond app.
“I’m really excited about (this is app),” Arkoosh said. “I think it is a wonderful opportunity for citizens to take a very simple step that could actually save the life of a neighbor, friend, a family member or a total stranger because they will get notified that somebody needs help close by and they’ll have the tools to help them. Including knowing where the AED is and hopefully the skill of doing basic CPR. It’s a great way to help save a life.”
Early application of bystander CPR and defibrillation from an AED dramatically improves a person’s chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest. According to the American Heart Association, CPR, especially if performed within the first few minutes can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.
There are 350,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests each year nation-wide. Only 12 percent overall survive, according to the American Heart Association. In Montgomery County, there were 591 cases of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests reported in 2016. Of those, 141 survived until admitted into the hospital, 50 survived to be discharged from the hospital, according to the Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival.
The county has already reached out to local police, fire, EMS and health care professionals in Montgomery County to sign up to download the PulsePoint Respond app to their phone.
The Department of Public Safety encourages anyone in Montgomery County who is CPR trained, especially first responders and health care professionals, to download and begin using the free PulsePoint apps. They are available for iPhone and Android and can be downloaded from the iTunes Store and Google Play or by following this link: http://www.pulsepoint.org/download/