IRescU App Helps Save Cardiac Arrest Victims
The app guides you through calling 911, performing CPR and finding the nearest automatic defibrillator.
CREDIT: Sean Captain
They may look exotic on shows like "Grey's Anatomy." But defibrillators — devices that apply an electrical charge to end a cardiac arrest — are common and easy to use today. Now a new app called iRescU aims to make it easier for people to find a defibrillator in an emergency.
An automated external defibrillator (AED) provides audio to guide anyone, in about a minute and half, through setting up and using the device. "The important thing to know is that you can't hurt someone with a defibrillator," said Dr. Nicolas Skipitaris, a cardiac surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "No one's ever died from a defibrillator being used on them."
What's not so easy is finding a defibrillator in the first place.
That was the tragedy of 67-year old Robert Blasetti, a volunteer clown in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade last year. Blasetti collapsed of a cardiac arrest, and no one knew that there was a defibrillator1,000 feet away, said Skipitaris.
Dr. Nadine Levick, an emergency room doctor in New York City and head of the EMS Safety Foundation, wants to change that. Together with Skipitaris and other volunteers, she's developing an app called iRescU that allows people to report the location of any AED they spy.
New York City, for example, maintains a database of locations for 4,300 AEDs, but those locations are not all accurate, and they capture only a portion of the AEDs actually available, Levick and Skipitaris said. The city as a whole may have 30,000 or more, they said. [See also: Remote Hack Could Cause Pacemakers to Electrocute Patients]
"Gyms have to have a defibrillator, otherwise they have to close the door," Levick said. Local laws also require defibrillators in nursing homes, along with some shopping malls and transit hubs. AEDs are also in schools, and anyone can buy the device. (Costco sells a model for $1,200.)
IRescU is like Foursquare for defibrillators. Instead of posting a tip about the best drink at a coffee shop, users might report that the coffee shop has a defibrillator. IRescU verifies the data and uses it to supplement (and in some cases correct) the locations it gets from official databases.
"We can find a coffee shop [with mobile apps]. Why can't we find a life-saving piece of machinery?" Levick said. She also points out that New York City already has an official condom-finder app.
The iRescU app not only finds defibrillators, but also takes someone though the whole emergency process. A button on the home screen calls 911 in the United States or the appropriate emergency number in other countries.
The app then guides users through the application of CPR. They click on the profile of an infant, a child or an adult, then place their hands on the victim's chest while holding the smartphone. The app uses the phone's accelerometers to warn users if they are pumping too quickly or too slowly. [See video]
Levick is now conducting 12-month pilot projects with five cities, including Boston and Ottawa, which she said already have good AED location databases. When the app appears, it will work on "all platforms," Levick said, including not just iOS and Android.
Levick's goal isn't primarily to develop an app, however, but the database. She'd be happy to integrate that information into other location-based applications, such as Foursquare and Google Maps. Levick said that she is "in discussions" with both of those companies. "Google's found this a very interesting project," she said.