The UF College of Medicine is taking charge to enable Alachua County residents to make a difference as soon as someone experiences sudden cardiac arrest, which kills nearly 475,000 Americans each year. Working alongside community first responders from the Alachua County Sheriff ’s Office, Gainesville Fire Rescue and Alachua County Fire Rescue, the college’s task force promotes PulsePoint Respond, a free smartphone app that was integrated with Alachua County’s 911 system in fall 2018 and alerts bystanders to a nearby cardiac emergency and empowers them to help.
Torben Becker, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of emergency medicine and an associate medical director for Alachua County Fire Rescue, cares for critically ill patients at UF Health Shands Hospital and oversees the critical care division for local EMS. Becker, along with UF anesthesiologist Nikolaus Gravenstein, MD ’90, championed the implementation of PulsePoint in the county, which is funded by the UF department of anesthesiology.
Becker shares his take on arming Alachua County residents and health care providers with this lifesaving tool.
Q: What can be achieved with the PulsePoint Respond app?
We want to improve the survival rate from cardiac arrest in Gainesville and the surrounding area. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after a cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. Having the PulsePoint app in our county could have a big impact on the local community, and that would allow us as health care professionals to contribute to health outcomes outside of the hospital.
Q: How would you describe your job?
Along with the other EMS medical directors, I am involved in protocol development, quality assurance, training, remediation and general medical oversight of Alachua County Fire Rescue’s EMS operations. Additionally, I oversee a number of time-sensitive clinical studies at UF Health aimed at improving the outcomes from cardiac arrest, so I monitor almost every event in the county using a mix of paging algorithms, radio traffic and dispatched data to be aware of any potential patient coming to UF Health.
Q: What can all physicians do to increase the survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest?
I think every physician, regardless of their specialty, should know how to do CPR and should sign up for PulsePoint Respond. Often, physicians are leaders in their communities and can educate their patients and the public on the importance of bystander CPR and how to get trained. Physicians should also share this message with relatives of at-risk patients — a family member performing bystander CPR and using an AED is likely going to be the most important factor in increasing the odds of a good neurological outcome.