Crowdsourcing Contest To Find Automated External Defibrillators
November 5, 2012

Contest Helps Raise Awareness Of Automated External Defibrillators

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A contest that challenged citizen scientists to roam the streets of Philadelphia in search of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) resulted in 1,400 of the potentially life-saving devices being located and cataloged throughout the fifth-largest city in the US, according to a November 4 press release.

The MyHeartMap Challenge, which was conducted over an eight week period during the winter of 2012, had participants use a special smartphone app to photograph the AEDs, catalog their GPS coordinates, and then enter additional information such as the specific locations inside of the buildings where they are housed.

The results of the contest were presented by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012 conference on Sunday.

The efforts of the more than 300 individuals and teams that participated in the project "are expected to help provide crucial data to ensure quick bystander response to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, which is among the nation's leading killers," the university said in a statement.

A total of 1,429 AEDs were located in 525 locations throughout the city, with 19% of them being discovered in gyms, 16% in schools, and 11% in offices. Two winners each located more than 400 AEDs, and both were awarded a $9,000 prize for their efforts, according to the school.

"Finding AEDs during this contest was a very hard task — many AEDs, we found, are in places people wouldn't think to look during an emergency, or were hard to obtain without special permission from building managers or security personnel," MyHeartMap Challenge director Dr. Raina Merchant, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and a senior fellow in Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, said in a statement. "But we're so impressed with the creative ways people sought out devices and provided us with information that we'll now be able to use to ensure that these devices are in the right place to save lives."

Two additional, related studies were also scheduled to be presented during the conference. One of those addressed issues discovered by the contest, including the fact that 88% of the buildings searched did not have AEDs and that several others limited access to the devices for various reasons. The other involved a survey of the general public regarding the use of the devices, including who is allowed to use them and whether or not the subject would be willing to do so in an emergency.

"Twenty five percent of respondents reported having been trained in CPR during the past five years, and 63 percent said they would call for help and/or dial 911 if they witnessed a cardiac arrest scenario," the university said. "But only 8 percent of those surveyed spontaneously suggested using an AED when asked what other actions they would take."

"Fifty-nine percent of respondents were aware that AEDs are available in public places, but only 38 percent were aware the devices can be used by lay people — many reported they believe they were for use only by trained medical personnel," they added. "When informed that the devices can easily be used by the lay public, only 60 percent of respondents said they would be willing to use an AED themselves during an emergency."

"Our findings reveal significant knowledge gaps about the ease of use and lifesaving potential of AEDs," Dr. Benjamin Abella, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine, the director of clinical research in Penn Medicine's Center for Resuscitation Science, and the senior author of the third study, said. "Despite much greater availability of AEDs in public places in U.S. cities today, we must continue our efforts to educate the public about AED availability, and empower people to use these devices to save lives."