When your heart stops pumping blood, the brain and other organs begin to shut down. After approximately eight minutes, irreversible brain damage begins to occur.

For every unaided minute that passes in sudden cardiac arrest, the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent.

This is why Barry Bell, director of cardiac services at HCA Healthcare’s Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., has helped make a difference with early CPR interventions at the click of a button.

PulsePoint, a free app on your mobile devices, could help decrease response times for people in cardiac arrest and, ultimately, save lives.

“The first day I downloaded the app, I was sitting in my office when suddenly I heard an unfamiliar tone emitting from my cell phone,” said Bell, a former emergency medical services responder. “It startled me at first, and then I realized it was a PulsePoint notification of a cardiac arrest about 275 yards away, across a busy four-lane street.”

“A nearby coworker and I flew down four flights of stairs and ran towards the street,” he said. “A fire truck from a station three blocks down the street zoomed by us and arrived at the scene about two to three minutes before we got there. By the time we arrived, CPR and advanced cardiac life support was well underway, and they were loading the patient into an ambulance. We got really excited to see that PulsePoint really works.”

When Barry learned about this mobile app at a cardiac resuscitation conference, he envisioned the thousands of cardiac patients that come through Parkridge Health’s emergency rooms and how marrying technology, along with his community’s desire to help, could improve patient outcomes.

Hundreds of CPR certified Chattanoogans will be alerted of a nearby person suffering from a heart attack within seconds.

How does Pulse Point work?

PulsePoint essentially operates the same way an AMBER Alert does, but for sudden cardiac arrest: 

  • A bystander notices someone experiencing a heart attack. They call 911.
  • The 911 dispatcher sends a PulsePoint an alert.
  • The alert goes out to all nearby PulsePoint users.
  • An everyday hero rushes to the location to help the victim until EMS arrives. 

PulsePoint also allows you to select what kind of notifications you want to receive. It can alert you to structure fires, medical calls, traffic and even local disasters. A simple on/off toggle switch will customize your notification settings.

What made you decide to present the idea to implement PulsePoint at Parkridge?

Parkridge Health is always looking for ways to serve our community. Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States – the national survival rate is less than eight percent. If done correctly, I knew PulsePoint would be the perfect fit.  

Talk about the collaboration between emergency responders and additional health systems involved. 

We immediately recognized successful implementation in our community would require multiple organizations to see the value in the project. 

We met with Hamilton County Emergency Dispatch’s executive director and with leadership from the various emergency medical services (EMS). We also thought it was extremely important to have the support of non-profits and hospitals, so our local chapter of the American Heart Association and senior leadership from other hospitals in our community got involved. We brought the initiative to our state senators and spoke with other community stakeholders to gain support. 

The collaboration culminated in launching the Chattanooga PulsePoint initiative at Chattanooga Fire Station Number 1 on March 19, 2018.

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(L to R): Thomas Ozburn, CEO, Parkridge Health System; Barry Bell, Director of Cardiac Services; Jamie Lawson, Marketing/PR Manager

Since its kickoff, how has the experience been with the app?

In almost four weeks of launching the app to the Hamilton County community, 988 followers have downloaded it to their phones. Since the launch, PulsePoint has received 134 sudden cardiac arrest reports of which four were in locations that enabled devices to be alerted.  That may not sound like many alerts, but when you consider that each life is precious, that’s four people with a greater chance of surviving than they would have had otherwise.  As the number of people who download the app increases, the likelihood that even more lives saved will grow as well.     

What is it like to know that the work you, your team and this app does saves lives? 

We have the highest responsibility when we are entrusted to the care of a human being. It is a privilege to care for patients and their families. There is a great sense of satisfaction when we see the fruits of our labors, like this app, and more importantly, saving lives, comes to fruition. It is a great feeling to be part of a team, an organization and a community that works together to save lives.

How can people get involved? 

Learn CPR and download the PulsePoint app! If you do not know CPR, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross can recommend several course offerings in your community.

Also, one of the great features of the PulsePoint App is if you swipe right on the home screen, it has instructions on how to perform CPR – along with an audible compression rate tool – and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). You never know when you’ll be in a situation to step up and save someone’s life. 

HCA 50th Anniversary
In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.