Taking a communitywide approach to saving lives

UCHealth teams with community to improve survival from sudden cardiac arrest
March 16, 2016
The Fort Collins community is taking an active approach to helping more people survive sudden cardiac arrest, which includes community training in CPR and AEDs.

The Fort Collins community is taking an active approach to helping more people survive cardiac arrest by designating itself as a HeartSafe community.

UCHealth’s Emergency Medical Services, Community Health and cardiac team have partnered with Poudre Fire Authority and the City of Fort Collins to provide CPR training and place more automated external defibrillators at businesses and other locations in the community. The goal: combine these efforts with the PulsePoint mobile app to get more people trained and available to help in cardiac situations before emergency medical services arrives.

“Survival rates increase if we can get CPR and an AED started as soon as possible,” said Janet Werst, UCHealth’s Community Health supervisor for northern Colorado. “HeartSafe Communities is a public health initiative that promotes that immediate access to care.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death for people over 40 in the United States. If the heart stops, the chance of survival drops 10 percent with each passing minute without intervention. In 2013, about 360,000 people suffered sudden cardiac arrest in the U.S. outside a hospital. Of those, only 9 percent survived.

UCHealth, the City of Fort Collins and PFA are placing AEDs in businesses and adding 1,000 PulsePoint subscribers each year to try to increase the survival rate.

PulsePoint is a free phone app that interfaces with emergency communication centers. It notifies app users when CPR is needed nearby and pinpoints the closest AED locations. Fort Collins joined more than 700 other communities in the United States in February 2015 in promoting the app.

“The goal is to lower the response time for sudden cardiac arrest by getting more community members to respond before help arrives,” Werst said.

Only 40 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims receive CPR before EMS arrives.

Werst and others involved hope that PulsePoint, together with other HeartSafe Community efforts, will help them improve outcomes from cardiac events within the community.

“Becoming a HeartSafe Community will help strengthen the chain of survival, especially in the early moments of sudden cardiac arrest, when every moment counts,” said Dr. Patrick Green, the UCHealth cardiologist who initiated the HeartSafe Communities effort in Fort Collins. “Our goals are to better educate the community on heart disease prevention and recognition of sudden cardiac arrest so that prompt action can be taken — rapidly initiating CPR, calling 911, using an AED for early defibrillation — which has been proven to improve survival from sudden cardiac arrest. Additionally, we’ll help with targeted placement of AEDs and help an entity, such as a church, set up an AED program that includes training and maintenance.”

On March 1, Fort Collins’ mayor read a proclamation recognizing the efforts to be a HeartSafe Community. The initiatives also include:

  • Expand UCHealth’s Healthy Hearts program into middle schools and include CPR and AED training in the high school sessions.
  • Healthy Hearts is an outreach heart health screening and preventive education program aimed at educating students and their families on how the cardiovascular system works and how diet and exercise choices affect heart health.
  • Use local events and festivals to educate community members on the symptoms of cardiac arrest and the need to call 911 immediately (see side box information). Use these events to educate people on hands-only CPR and the use of AEDs as well as provide information on the PulsePoint app.
  • Train local dispatch agencies to provide instructions to the caller for a zero-minute response time for medical care, and make sure local law enforcement officers are trained on and equipped with AEDs.
  • Address components of risk reduction and prevention, such as making sure neighborhoods have usable sidewalks and community members have access to free fitness opportunities. This also includes promoting tobacco-free programs, health screenings and other access to health care.

The HeartSafe Communities designation lasts two years, at which time the city will reapply and give updates on its continued efforts to promote safe hearts in its community.

We’ll take it from here

UCHealth Heart Center program meets highest standards
Rapidly initiating CPR, calling 911 and using an AED for early defibrillation have been proven to improve sudden cardiac arrest survival rates. These three steps can help save someone’s life until the arrival of EMS crews, who can then initiative other life-saving procedures.

Everyday heroes needed! Get the app. Save a life. Sudden Cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. The Pulsepoint app alerts bystanders -- like you -- who can help victims before professional help can arrive. PulsePoint alerts you to nearby people in need. For every minute that passes before help arrives, SCA survival odds decrease by 7-10%. Pulsepoint is like Amber Alert for sudden cardiac arrest victims. “We are lucky to live in Fort Collins, where people receive great cardiac care,” said UCHealth cardiologist Dr. Patrick Green. “When people have a heart attack or STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction), our door-to-balloon times are half the national standards.”

Door-to-balloon is the amount of time that elapses from the moment a heart attack patient enters the hospital to the moment the blocked artery is reopened in the cath lab. The higher the door-to-balloon time, the more damage to the heart, which can have long-term consequences and reduce the chance that a patient can return to a normal lifestyle.

The American College of Cardiology’s national initiative to improve care for heart attack patients calls for a door-to-balloon time of 90 minutes or less. Medical Center of the Rockies’ door-to-balloon time averages 43 minutes, with the fastest time clocking in at 17 minutes.

It all starts with the expertise and coordination of local emergency medical services crews in the field. They can diagnose a heart attack on scene, send the alert that prepares the UCHealth heart team at the hospital, and start treatment in the ambulance.

That’s why experts advise calling 911 immediately when someone is experiencing heart attack symptoms instead of driving to the hospital.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.