The University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) was selected as a finalist for ECRI Institute's 7th Health Devices Achievement Award in October 2012 for its MyHeartMap project, which used crowdsourcing techniques and a contest format to record the locations of 1,500 AEDs throughout a large metropolitan area in a short time frame and on a limited budget.
The Health Devices Achievement Award recognizes outstanding initiatives undertaken by member healthcare institutions to improve patient safety, reduce costs, or otherwise facilitate better strategic management of health technology. ECRI Institute announced the winner and five finalists for the 7th award in October 2012. Learn about the other submissions that achieved recognition.
ECRI Institute congratulates the MyHeartMap team: Raina Merchant, MD; Lance Becker, MD; and David Asch, MD, MBA.
How do you accomplish a labor-intensive task in a short time frame and on a limited budget? You motivate others to do it for you.
That's the innovative strategy that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine used when faced with the challenge of mapping the locations of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in a large metropolitan area—namely, the city of Philadelphia, where the university is located. Researchers were specifically interested in devices intended for public access defibrillation, as opposed to those used by specially trained individuals in hospitals or emergency medical technician services. Ultimately, their goal was to increase the chances that an AED could be accessed quickly in an emergency.
"AEDs are such an important part of the response to a cardiac emergency," noted Dr. Raina Merchant, assistant professor in Penn's Department of Emergency Medicine and the director of the MyHeartMap Challenge (www.myheartmap.org), "but the people who could use the devices to save a life don't always know where they're located."
The researchers' unique method for achieving that goal was what caught our attention. Using crowdsourcing techniques and a contest format, MyHeartMap researchers were able to record the locations of 1,500 AEDs in an eight-week period for a predefined, fixed cost. Ancillary benefits of the project were that it engaged the public to serve as "citizen scientists," raising awareness about the availability of life-saving devices in the city, and that it yielded insights that may be valuable for future research, demonstrating how social networks and mobile phone technologies can be used to collect information about critical health resources.
Public access AEDs are portable emergency devices that can be used by individuals without specialized medical training, other than training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), to help resuscitate individuals in cardiac arrest. The devices analyze the stricken individual's electrocardiogram and, if a shock is warranted, either deliver the shock automatically or prompt the user to do so. They even provide audible CPR instructions to guide inexperienced responders. AEDs are commonly stationed in public areas, such as airports, office buildings, churches, gyms, and schools.
The ability to quickly locate an AED when needed can be a matter of life and death: Rapid defibrillation can significantly improve an individual's chances of surviving a cardiac arrest. The University of Pennsylvania MyHeartMap initiative ultimately seeks to facilitate rapid defibrillation by creating an easily accessible map of AED locations throughout Philadelphia.
To accomplish this goal, the program organizers turned to crowdsourcing, which involves the transfer of tasks conventionally performed by specific individuals to a large, diverse group—that is, to the crowd. The University of Pennsylvania initiative took the form of a public tournament. The tournament engaged patients, providers, policymakers, and the general public to report AED locations throughout Philadelphia.
The MyHeartMap initiative included the creation of a web platform for data exchange and a mobile phone app to facilitate data entry for the contest. The app allowed users to take pictures of an AED that they located and to transmit the image electronically to a secure database. The images were automatically encoded with location information through the GPS function on the user's smartphone. The app also prompted the user to enter additional data about the device, such as the manufacturer name, whether the AED's "service soon" light was flashing, and more specific details about its location (e.g., "2nd floor near the elevator").
Social media sites such as Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter were used to facilitate dialogue and information sharing about this public health project, and monetary prizes were awarded to motivate participants. The individual or team that submitted the most AED locations during the two-month contest period was to receive a $10,000 grand prize. (The contest organizers ultimately decided to divide a larger grand prize among two winners, each of whom contributed over 400 AED locations.) In addition, to encourage participation among individuals who would not be in a position to win the grand prize, $50 prizes were awarded to individuals or teams who were the first to submit any of 200 pre-identified AEDs, whose location was known only to the study authors.
The University of Pennsylvania team wanted to address the fact that the absence of easily accessible AED location information hinders rescue efforts: Even the most effective life-saving technology can be rendered ineffective if the device isn't located in time. The MyHeartMap Challenge demonstrated one approach for tackling that problem at the local level. The team had the additional goal of laying the groundwork for future studies in other locations, contributing to the ultimate goal of creating a map and database of all AEDs in the United States.
Furthermore, the team showed that new tools and techniques—social media, smartphone apps, and crowdsourcing principles—can be used to address public health information problems where the need for data is acute and other, more traditional data collection methods are not feasible. One aspect of the program that particularly impressed Dr. Merchant was how hard-working the "crowd" was: "People really mobilized around this effort to address a big public health problem. We were really excited by the response." True to the spirit of research in which the project was conducted, the MyHeartMap team is developing a toolkit that others can use to implement a similar program in their communities.