An app for first responders has helped Denmark quadruple the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rate, and it’s all thanks to trained volunteers.

Medical experts hope that similar results could be achieved in the US if safety concerns can be overcome …

Defibrillators once required extensive medical training to use, but the development of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) has changed all that. Now almost anyone can use one with the aid of a very short training session, and AEDs are widely available in locations like public transit stations, shopping malls, and office blocks.

The problem is ensuring that a trained volunteer is available to use them when required. The Washington Post reports that Denmark has solved this problem with an app for first responders.

Denmark has seen a dramatic increase in survival from heart attacks after it began recruiting volunteers and arming some of them with smartphone technology that alerts them to nearby cardiac emergencies and helps them locate automated external defibrillators, or AEDs. The volunteers are then asked to enter residences and perform CPR until an ambulance arrives […]

In Denmark, the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest has increased from 4 percent to 16 percent in the past 20 years.

The app first directs volunteers to the nearest AED, and then to the victim. Up to 20 volunteers are dispatched, meaning help is likely to arrive quickly, and other volunteers can assist by clearing a path for paramedics, flagging down the ambulance, and so on – all steps that speed the journey to hospital and further boost the survival rate.

A similar app exists in the US, called PulsePoint, but many cardiac arrests happen at home, and safety concerns have limited its effectiveness.

In a handful of pilot communities around the country, PulsePoint alerts verified responders who are professionals to cardiac arrests in residences. But civilians are never called to residences because of concerns over their safety when entering the home of a stranger.

Yet the experience so far from the pilot communities dispatching off-duty professionals show there “isn’t a safety concern,” said Rea, who studied the pilot programs and found that responders were well received.

The GoodSam app works in the same way in the UK.

Some trained first-aiders are worried about using a defibrillator, but their automated nature means they are simple to use, and Freddy Lippert, director of Copenhagen Emergency Medical Services, says there is nothing to lose.

“The patient is dead” — meaning his or heart has stopped due to cardiac arrest — “and if you don’t do anything, 9 out of 10 will be dead forever,” he said.

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