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September 1, 2014, 7:34 am

Penn Med contest pairs defibrillators, phones

A group of Penn Medicine researchers has issued a challenge to the public.

They’re asking community members to help save lives by using their cell phones.

The researchers are launching the MyHeartMap Challenge, a month-long contest slated to begin in January. The contest is geared toward sending thousands of Philadelphians to the streets and social media sites to locate as many automated external defibrillators as they can. AEDs are used to restore cardiac arrest victims’ hearts to their normal rhythm.

The contest is just a first step in what the Penn team hopes will grow to become a nationwide, crowd-sourced AED registry that will put the lifesaving devices in the hands of anyone at anytime. Used in conjunction with CPR, AEDs are an important part of the “chain of survival” needed to save cardiac arrest victims.

Armed with a free app installed on their mobile phones, contest participants will snap pictures of the devices wherever they find them in public places around the city. Participants will use the app to geotag the photos with their location and details about the device like its manufacturer. Next, participants will send the photos to the research team via the app or the project’s website. The data collected will be used to create an updated app linking locations of all public AEDs in Philadelphia with a person’s GPS coordinates to help them locate the nearest AED during an emergency.

The person or team who finds the most AEDs during the contest will win $10,000. Participants who find various pre-located “golden ticket” AEDs around the city will also win $50 for identifying each of those devices.

The project is modeled after the DARPA Network Challenge, a crowd-sourcing experiment in which social media users raced to be the first to submit the locations of 10 moored, eight-foot, red weather balloons at 10 fixed locations across the United States.

“More and more, scientists are learning that we can benefit from the wisdom of the crowd,” said MyHeartMap Challenge leader Dr. Raina Merchant, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Participation from ordinary citizens will allow us to answer questions and make the city safer than our team could ever do on its own.”

The challenge comes at a time when less than 10 percent of cardiac arrest victims survive in most cities across the United States. The MyHeartMap Challenge aims to help change those statistics.

“Philadelphia is home to a vibrant medical community, some of the nation’s top institutions of higher education and is a growing hub for new technology development. The MyHeartMap Challenge brings all those elements together to improve the health of our people,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Donald D. Schwarz.

“The city has a rich tradition of innovation, and we have what it takes to lead the nation in this new form of lifesaving community engagement.”

According to the researchers, there is an estimated one million AEDs across the nation. Some are hung on the walls in airports, casinos and recreation centers, while others are tucked away in restaurant closers and under cash registers. AEDs are not subject to regulations that would allow their makers to know where or when their devices are being used.

MyHeartMap Challenge participants can register as individuals or teams, and the Penn researchers suggest participants develop creative ways to maximize their chances of winning. For instance, teams could use Facebook and Twitter to engage participation or organize AED scavenger hunts or mini-contests to locate the devices in a workplace building.

The multi-disciplinary project combines the expertise of investigators from Penn’s Center for Resuscitation Science, the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, the Wharton School, the Cartography Modeling Lab and the Organizational Dynamics Program, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Penn’s researchers are also collaborating with resuscitation scientists at the University of Washington and crowd-sourcing experts at MIT.

For information, visit www.med.penn.edu/myheartmap/.