The Power to Save Lives in Your Pocket

August 12, 2015

You’re sitting at a local coffee shop. A gentleman across from you appears to be struggling. Moments later, he clutches his chest and collapses. You immediately reach for your smartphone, but instead of dialing 911, you grab a defibrillator from the wall and plug it into your mobile device. A voice prompt emerges from your phone’s speaker: “Begin by exposing patient’s bare chest and torso.” While you start to remove the man’s shirt, another patron dials for help. By now, you’ve placed two pads on the man’s chest. “Preparing shock—move away from the patient,” the voice instructs. The shock is delivered. The man’s heart is beating again. You continue to follow the prompts until emergency medical technicians arrive. Survival rates from cardiac arrests like this are directly linked to the amount of time between the onset of the cardiac arrest and defibrillation. A victim’s chance of survival decreases by 7 to 10 percent with every minute of delay until defibrillation, if CPR is not performed. If the first shock is delivered within three to five minutes, the survival rate is as high as 74 percent when CPR is also performed immediately. That’s why public access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) is so vital. The problem is, traditional AEDs are expensive. A basic unit can cost about $1,200, while clinical grade units with advanced diagnostic and control features can cost up to $60,000 each. Even refurbished AEDs start around $700. Because of this, AEDs are often cost-prohibitive in developing nations. With their company, BlueDefib, 2015 graduates Elliott Russell, Austin Miller, Kevin Aziz, and Harlan Toussaint are creating a new kind of AED that features USB integration to allow devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones to serve as an external processing device. This will likely be accomplished with an app or a web-based platform that is compatible with the AED. The AED will be a stripped-down version of current versions on the market, contained in a more rugged and sturdy casing. “Basically a shock box that connects to your smartphone,” explains Russell. “Digital screens, speakers, and software are what make AEDs expensive. If we remove them from the device and replace them with the external screen and speakers that already exist on a mobile device, the cost of production significantly decreases,” Russell continues. With BlueDefib’s technology, the estimated cost of the AED would be less than $100. The target market for BlueDefib’s device is the urban clinical environment in developing countries, rural areas and disaster relief areas. “Our initial beta market is India, followed by release in Anglophone Africa and the Philippines,” Russell said. “The successful adoption of our product would bring low-cost, reliable AEDs to the places that need them the most.”