Where’s The Nearest Medical Professional? This App Alerts Them In Case Of Emergency

by Eithne Dodd 

We know the famous saying “You’re never more than three feet away from a spider”, but how far away are you from a medical professional? Probably no more than 500 metres, according to a new app called GoodSAM which wants to capitalise on this to save lives.

GoodSAM (Good Smartphone Activated Medics) is a service that allows trained members of the public to be notified if a medical emergency has occurred near them. When someone calls the emergency services, a medically qualified responder can be notified on their phone and given directions to the location of the person in need of medical assistance.

40,000 users

The technology has been adopted by ambulance services across the world to reduce the time it takes for a medically trained first responder to arrive at the scene of an emergency. The app already has about 40,000 people around the world signed up to it.

“We’ve been using GoodSAM for the last 10 months or so to alert responders that are trained in CPR to assist acutely unwell patients, chiefly cardiac arrest, but also other life threatening conditions,” says Neil White of East Midlands Ambulance Service.

“Our 999 call takers take details from the caller and once a life-threatening call has been identified, our systems automatically send an alert out through the GoodSAM system which notifies the nearest five people within the 500 metre radius of the emergency,” he adds.

In the UK, 75 per cent of life-threatening calls receive a response within eight minutes, this is also true of the East Midlands ambulance service.

“The average that we’re seeing is around three and half minutes from the 999 call being made. So, where this is having the benefit, is that patients can only survive without oxygen for four minutes. Any time after that the patient is effectively dead. So, without early intervention, without CPR, the patient’s chances of survival decline quite rapidly after four minutes,” White says.

IPhone X Responder App
GoodSAM App has about 40,000 users from across the world // Photo Courtesy of GoodSAM

The link to Heathrow Airport survival rates

In hospitals, when people go into cardiac arrest they survive around 50 per cent of the time. A person on the street has just a nine per cent chance of survival but in Heathrow Airport 80 per cent of those who suffer a cardiac arrest survive. Because Heathrow has many staff members trained in First Aid, they can respond to a medical emergency much faster than an ambulance can get to someone on the street.

Professor Mark Wilson, Medical Director and Co-Founder of GoodSam, developed the app in an effort to replicate the survival rates of Heathrow Airport on the street.

“This came about due to cases of impact brain apnoea, which is where people get a whack on the head and they stop breathing,” he says

“We wanted to find a way for people to be able to hold the casualties’ airways open, but there is actually a much bigger need for cardiac arrest care.”

This led Prof Wilson to develop an app that could utilise the CPR knowledge that many people have to save lives by intervening faster than an ambulance service can.

In Australia, GoodSAM has been integrated with Ambulance Victoria in Melbourne. When a medical emergency is called in, the app is used as a tool to allow a nearby responder to give basic first aid.

Mike Ray, Emergency Co-Responder Programme Manager for Ambulance Victoria, says that the speed of the GoodSAM system means that in some cases ambulance workers have been notified by the app about an emergency before their pager went off.  

Ray explains the integration of the app with his service like this: “A person has a cardiac arrest, someone calls the emergency services, once cardiac arrest has been identified as the issue then three things will happen at once: The caller will be given CPR instructions over the phone; emergency services will be dispatched; and the GoodSAM system will be activated.”

The need for volunteers

Both White and Ray are keen to get more volunteers using the app. “The more people you can get within 500 metres, the more chances you get of getting somebody to the patient’s side,” says White.

The ambulance service in Victoria has about 11,000 volunteers signed up to the GoodSAM App; in the East Midlands, 1,600 volunteers are registered. However White believes that there are potentially tens of thousands of people in the East Midlands alone who have a CPR qualification, that could potentially become volunteers.

“The reach that we’ve got with the app is quite small because we can put it out through our social media,” White says. Currently, of the 60 to 80 alerts that are issued by the East Midlands ambulance service every day, about 60 per cent have a GoodSAM responder within 500 metres.

In the 10 months since the East Midlands service has integrated the GoodSAM technology, 30 patients have survived their cardiac arrest due to a GoodSAM responder starting CPR before an ambulance got to the scene.

“It’s really positive for us. It’s galvanising our staff to think differently about technology in the NHS and it’s really having a fantastic benefit for the patients,” White says.

Featured Image provided by GoodSAM 

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