MyHeartMap Challenge: Mapping Life-Saving Defibrillators in Philadelphia

Jan 31, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by

By Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program alumna and assistant professor, University of Pennsylvania Department of Emergency Medicine


If the person next to you went into cardiac arrest, would you know what to do? Would you know where to find an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock and restart their heart? Millions of public places across the United States have AEDs that can save lives – airports, casinos, churches, gyms and schools, among them – but most people don’t know where they’re located. Every second counts when someone’s heart stops beating, and time spent searching for an AED is time wasted in increasing the chances of survival.

Surprisingly, no one knows where all of the country’s AEDs are located. Requirements for AED reporting and registration vary widely by state, and no comprehensive map of their locations has ever been compiled. As a result, 911 dispatchers aren’t always able to direct callers to an AED in an emergency, and callers have no good way of quickly locating one on their own.

This week, I launched the MyHeartMap Challenge with a multidisciplinary team from the University of Pennsylvania. This pilot study will use social media and social networking tools to gather this critical public health data and create searchable maps of Philadelphia’s AEDs that can be used by health professionals and the general public.

The first step of our challenge is a Philadelphia-based community-wide contest. We’re asking Philadelphians to find and photograph AEDs over the next six weeks, and submit the photo and location to us via a mobile app or our website. You can also participate if you don’t live in Philadelphia by finding a creative way to use your social network or harness crowdsourcing.

The person or group who photographs the most Philadelphia AEDs in the next six weeks has the opportunity to win a $10,000 grand prize. We will also award $50 prizes for individuals/teams that submit data about select “golden” AEDs.

Using the information we gather from the contest, we plan to make a searchable database and map of local AEDs. This information can eventually be accessed by the 911 center through an online program and the public via a smart phone application, giving Philadelphians the tools they need to save lives.

This project has really evolved since it was first conceptualized, and I’m excited about the interdisciplinary team behind it. We’ve drawn in partners from a wide range of disciplines – finance, law, business, behavioral economics, geographic modeling, graphic design, and more. This is not only a study in public health and safety; it’s a way to examine how we can leverage new technology to improve our community.

So if you’re in the Philadelphia area or have a creative way to connect with Philadelphia locals, I hope you’ll get involved. But no matter where you live, I urge you to take a look around next time you’re in a public place. Locate the AED – you never know when you might need it.

Learn more about the MyHeartMap Challenge.

Follow updates from the MyHeartMap Challenge on Facebook and Twitter.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.