To encourage AED use by bystanders, AED manufacturers have been working to make the devices as easy to use as possible — to great success. For example, a University of Washington Medical Center study found that sixth graders took an average time of 90 seconds to perform successful defibrillation on a mannequin, compared to 67 seconds for emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Many organizations and localities offer free or low-cost AED/CPR training opportunities to prepare community members for rescue situations. For example, Marin County (Calif.) EMS offered free, 4-hour AED/CPR training at 16 different locations. Indicative of how easy it is to use an AED, the training was open to anyone age 8 and older.
However, many people still don’t realize how simple AEDs are to use. A survey of 1,000-plus travelers passing through Amsterdam’s central railway station found that about half of them would be willing to use an AED in an emergency. The most common reasons behind the reluctance to use an AED were a lack of knowledge of how to work the AED and concerns about harming the victim. A subsequent survey by AED designer and manufacturer Defibtech and Harris Interactive found that providing AED users with text, audio and video instructions in real-time during a rescue situation would make most respondents more comfortable with using an AED.
Technology: The Solution to Higher SCA Survival
AEDs have come to a tipping point similar to the one that happened several years ago with the introduction of the iPhone. Before Apple launched this product, most consumers were intimidated by smart phones. The iPhone made texting, emailing and Web surfing on smart phones easy and merged it all with music, video, and a world of apps. Many people now manage their lives from their smart phone.
In a similar way, new AED technology has made it possible to merge audio, video, training, and maintenance capabilities into an easy-to-use device that gives confidence to individuals in rescue situations.
For example, the Defibtech Lifeline View AED’s innovative and exclusive HD video feature shows rescuers how to perform each step of an sudden cardiac arrest rescue in real time. Loud and clear audio that can be understood in noisy mass transit environments and corresponding text reinforce the color video. For example, when the View’s audio says and text reads, “Place pads on patient’s chest,” the video shows exactly where to place the defibrillating pads.
The View’s embedded help videos are valuable training resources that help AED-CPR trained transit staff to review the critical steps of a rescue. In addition, the View has a patented status screen that confirms the AED’s readiness for rescue and virtually maintains itself through automated daily self-tests.
Not All AEDs are Created Equal
Choosing an AED that’s easy for bystanders to use is important because not all AEDs are created equal. “The Usability of Five Automated External Defibrillators Used by Minimally Trained Bystanders” study demonstrated significant differences between various AED models — differences in user interface including audio instruction, diagrams, labeling, buttons and indicator lights. The design of these product features affected the ability of study participants to safely deliver an effective and timely defibrillating shock.
Life saves made with AEDs have resulted in favorable public sentiment, which has spawned legislation mandating or encouraging AED placement and protecting Good Samaritans coming to the aid of victims from legal liability. This sentiment also has influenced court decisions recognizing AEDs as a standard of care and assessing damages on organizations that did not have an AED available to help a sudden cardiac arrest victim. These actions and trends have created expectations that AEDs be made available wherever large numbers of people congregate.
It’s now up to all mass transit authorities to follow the AED best practices of their air transportation peers around the world. Placing AEDs in transportation stations and hubs, trains, buses, ferries, and associated parking facilities will save lives and protect the legal and public relations interests of transportation authorities. The alternative is to be unprepared for sudden cardiac arrest — a position carrying the greatest risk of all.