Every year approximately 10,000 people in Belgium suffer a heart attack in public, at work or at home. If they do not quickly receive what´s known as basic life support within the first 10 minutes, survival rates drop below 15%. Upgrading emergency response systems to reduce the time-to-victim would cause costs to rise significantly, but vital minutes can be saved with the help of people capable of performing cardiopulmonary respiration (CPR) who find themselves in the vicinity at the time of such an attack.
To reduce the time elapsed between the attack and the arrival of emergency medical support, the young Doctor Steven Vercammen decided to create EVapp, a mobile-based volunteer notification system. This innovation has led to Vercammen´s inclusion in MIT Technology Review´s Innovator Under 35 Belgium 2016 awards.
Vercammen calculates that one out of every 20 people (excluding hospital staff) is trained in CPR, such as medical school students, Red Cross volunteers, midwives, etc. If during the minutes preceding the arrival of emergency response personnel these people perform CPR on the patient and use a defibrillator, the survival rate rises to 50%.
Anyone can install EVapp and report a heart attack which they have witnessed. If the user is also trained in CPR, they can submit their accreditation via the app to be verified by the Health Ministry, universities which provide this training and other partners of EVapp. Once confirmed, the user can receive notifications through the app when an incident happens nearby. Sometimes the app will ask the user to retrieve a nearby defibrillator, which will be geolocated by the app; in other cases, the app will ask the volunteer to proceed to a particular location to perform CPR.
Vercammen has already performed operational simulations of his system and hopes to launch it within the next three months. In Belgium, emergency response teams will receive a call from the witness of an attack, and will evaluate whether to engage a maximum of five EVapp volunteers. Another option, which will not be available in Belgium, would be for the witness to alert both emergency services and nearby volunteers at the same time through the app.
In the words of the member of the European Parliament and jury member for Innovators Under 35 Belgium 2016 Eva Paunova, "if [EVapp] lives up to expectations, it could save thousands of lives."