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Good Samaritan app could make life-saving connections

Mark Wilson, a doctor with London's Air Ambulance service, says he's flown to too many medical emergencies where faster medical intervention could have saved lives. So he created an smartphone app that connects medically-trained "good Samaritans" to people who need help in a medical emergency. The GoodSAM app uses GPS to locate doctors, nurses, firefighters, and other health care professionals closest to an emergency situation. It was released to the public this week.

"There are circumstances where somebody has a cardiac arrest in a coffee shop, and there is a paramedic who just happens to be sitting in the bookshop next door - who doesn't know about it," says Wilson, who is also a neurosurgeon at Imperial College National Health Service Trust. "This app is about being able to shout through the walls, being able to say, "Can anyone help?"

Once downloaded, the app allows the victim, or someone who witnesses an emergency, to press a help button that connects them to emergency services - Britain's version of 9-1-1. It also instantly alerts the closest medics registered with the GoodSAM app, called responders, to come to open an airway, provide CRP or apply other first aid.

Dr. Susan Hendrickson, an American doctor working in London who signed up as an app responder, checks her smartphone during a cooking class at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London. Hendrickson says she doesn't mind making her medical skills available during precious down time. "Usually all that's needed, where the app would come in, would be five minutes of CPR before the ambulance arrives," Hendrickson says.

App developers say the "good Samaritans" are not a replacement for ambulance services or EMT teams. Although medical professionals have their work credentials verified before being registered on the app, Wilson says as the app expands to other countries, the responders should check local laws before helping out in an emergency situation.

The app depends on crowdsourcing to fuel a second feature: pointing out where the nearest defibrillator - a device that measures heart rhythm and can use electric shocks to jumpstart the heart - is located when a victim suffers a heart attack. App users are asked to submit pictures and location details of public defibrillators, so the app can map out directions for potential users.

Wilson says the GoodSAM app - actually an acronym for Good Smartphone Activated Medics - has nearly 5,000 registered users and that he expects to expand the app for use in the United States and other countries.

Follow Alphonso Van Marsh on Twitter: @AlphonsoVM

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