A new app with the “singular mission” of saving lives could soon be available to Lancaster County residents.
Lancaster County Government and the Lancaster County EMS Council are hoping to partner with the PulsePoint Foundation, a California based non-profit that uses 911 call data to send real-time alerts on cardiac arrests directly to the phones of app users in the area.
“What we know is that for every minute that CPR is not being done, we lose about 10% chance of survival,” Darrell Fisher, a member of New Holland EMS and president of Lancaster County EMS Council, told the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. “If you do the math and you’re a few blocks from the EMS station on a perfect day, that’s still about a 60 to 80% chance (lost).”
According to the American Heart Association, cardiac arrest — or the abrupt stopping of the heart — occurs outside of a hospital more than 356,000 times a year, and death can occur quickly if the condition is not reversed by CPR or with a defibrillator.
The PulsePoint Foundation, which says its “singular mission” is saving lives, operates a mobile app which through pairing with a county’s 911 call system can send real-time alerts of cardiac arrest to app users in the immediate area and inform them where the closest defibrillator is, cutting down on response time for a condition where minutes are critical.
A news segment promoted by the company from an ABC affiliate in Maryland explains how a woman using the app was able to save a man’s life in 2017 when he suffered cardiac arrest and she received an alert on her phone.
“It’s just amazing that I’m actually standing here, all because of the PulsePoint System,” Sean McGuire told ABC 7.
Kathleen Morrison, assistant county solicitor, said on Tuesday that a partnership with PulsePoint is something the county and local medical providers have been looking at for years, but has not moved forward due to concerns about liability and privacy.
Commissioner Craig Lehman explained that there was concern over who would verify defibrillator locations and be liable if the county lists a defibrillator in a location and it is not in fact there or does not work.
To address that, Fisher said that when a user wants to list a defibrillator on the app, EMS council members will go to that location to ensure it is actually there before it is listed on the app. However, maintaining the defibrillator will be the responsibility of the defibrillator’s owner.
As for privacy, the app would also send different alerts to users depending on their level of medical expertise. Verified first responders would be able to receive alerts for cardiac arrests that occur in public areas as well as in homes, where Fisher said most events occur, while general users would only receive alerts about events occurring in public.
“So there’s no longer that concern that someone of the street would be barging into someone’s house to perform CPR,” Morrison explained.
After an initial $10,000 implementation fee, the cost for the system would be $18,000 a year. The EMS council has obtained a $100,000 to cover the first five years of the program.
Morrison said that the next step will be presenting the commissioners with an agreement between PulsePoint and the county for their approval. She said she expects that to occur in the next three months.