According to a study, a crowdsourcing contest that sent hundreds of Philadelphians to locate and catalog the locations of AEDs throughout the nation's fifth largest city led to the identification of more than 1,400 automated external defibrillators in public places. The study was led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The efforts of these "citizen scientists" 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.
Participants in the MyHeartMap Challenge, conducted over eight weeks during the winter of 2012, used a custom smart phone app to photograph AEDs, catalog their GPS coordinates, and enter information about other details such as the device's location in the building.
Unlike implantable medical devices, AEDs are not subject to Food and Drug Administration regulations that require their manufacturers to track where they're placed after purchase, so the estimated 1 million devices across the United States often go unused during cardiac arrests, when prompt defibrillation is essential to improving the odds of surviving.
The MyHeartMap Challenge findings provide essential data for the Penn Medicine team's efforts to build an AED map that will be accessible both by Philadelphia's 911 operators and by members of the public, who will be able to locate AED locations via a mobile app during cardiac emergencies.
More than 300 individuals and teams participated in the contest, locating 1,429 AEDs in more than 525 buildings across the city. The devices were most commonly found within gyms (19 percent), schools (16 percent), and offices (11 percent). Two winners, who each identified more than 400 AEDs, each received a 9,000-dollar prize.
"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," said MyHeartMap Challenge director Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and a senior fellow in Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.
"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," she added.
The finding will be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.