How EMS crowdsourcing improves cardiac-arrest outcomes

Technology like an iPhone app to locate AEDs connects non-responders to life-saving knowledge

Merrian-Webster Dictionary defines crowdsourcing as "the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people.”

The term is normally associated with internet technology and software. Yet as this article on using a smartphone app to locate AEDs throughout a community demonstrates, the idea can be used in EMS too. Asking high school students participate is an awesome idea.

With the proliferation of AEDs being installed in public spaces, office buildings and sports arenas, the chances of a potentially lifesaving device being nearby the scene of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is increasing. The problem is that the good Samaritan who stops to render aid may not know where to find it.

The most crucial part of the chain of survival is the bystander. High-quality chest compressions and immediate defibrillation in ventricular fibrillation produces the greatest likelihood of resuscitation, and the best opportunity for excellent neurologic outcome.

In a community where the professional EMS system is interconnected with the bystanders through technology, it becomes even easier to connect all the different threads of cardiac arrest management together into an ideal response system.

The downstream ramifications are enormous. For example, many EMS systems struggle with maintaining a strict time-based response level that makes little clinical sense in the vast majority of EMS responses.

They do it because in time-dependent calls like SCA, you want a quick response. But change the paradigm folks: It’s the quick response by someone with the motivation, knowledge and equipment to perform the essential tasks, not the professional responder.

Making sure there are good pre-arrival instructions, being aware of trained bystanders nearby, and rapid access to AEDs can make the difference, and keep EMS systems from needlessly (and expensively) maintaining inefficient resource levels. 

EMS is a crucial part of the chain of survival. In the specific case of SCA, it needs to advocate for community involvement at the most basic level. Apps like these are cheap, fun and may make a huge difference in outcomes.

About the author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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