"We activate the app now almost every day, sometimes three or four times in a single day," says Richard Price, chief of the San Ramon fire department
and president of Pulse Point.
This technology engages the community to act in those crucial moments before advanced medical help can arrive, and pinpoints the people around the victim
who have a demonstrated willingness to perform CPR. Price says several people typically respond to each posted emergency, and the app will occasionally
summon a dozen or more.
"Even in San Ramon, we have a very good paramedic response system here, a very good EMS system," Price said, but "90 percent of the time, we'll arrive
in seven minutes. But at seven minutes, you're on the edge of survivability."
If victims can just survive to the hospital, they'll have the opportunity to have all the life-saving advances of the 21st century. "The goal of the
app, sort of the promise of the app, is delivering more patients that are alive to the hospital," Price said.
Pulse Point currently has 4,900 users in San Ramon (a city of 72,000) and its API is open for any community's fire department to use for free. Next year, a three-year clinical trial will take place in Toronto, Canada,
evaluating the app's effectiveness.
Software like Pulse Point is only viable for cardiac arrests that occur in public. But most cardiac events happen in the home. Another way to increase
survivability, Eisenberg suggested, is to put more defibrillators in the home.
"I see the biggest opportunity for a breakthrough is a consumer defibrillator, a defibrillator that would cost less than $500, be virtually disposable, and
it would be viewed as a consumer safety-net item, not unlike a smoke detector or an airbag in the car," he says. "That has got to be the next horizon of
Currently, there is an at-home AED that is sold over the counter, but its cost is prohibitive at $1,200. However, a 2008 clinical trial of at-home AEDs
showed unclear results as to whether they are a benefit to cardiac arrest
survivability in the home.
But technology is only piece of the puzzle -- increasing cardiac survival also depends on good public education on CPR and the public's willingness to
In 2012, the American Heart Association updated its protocols for bystander CPR, making them much simpler. Lay responders are no longer are told to perform
mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. Instead, they are instructed to solely focus on pumping the chest at a rate of 100 compressions per minute. That's
because, once a rescuer takes his or her hands off the victim's chest to turn to breathing, the blood pressure drops to zero, and the heart drains of
blood. "It takes another 10 to 15 compressions to refill the heart," Einsenberg said. Also, most people have an aversion to putting their mouth on a dying
body. "I think it's resulted in a higher willingness to perform CPR."