This app dispatches CPR volunteers to help people having heart attacks

Denmark is the first to adopt the Heartrunner app nationwide and has seen a dramatic increase survival rates from cardiac arrest.

Jessica Rendall Wellness Writer
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health news. Before CNET, she worked in local journalism covering public health issues, business and music.
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For those who suffer a heart attack in Denmark, your first responder and the person who saves your life might not be a trained emergency responder, but your neighbor. Heartrunner is an app that guides a volunteer who's downloaded the app to the person having a heart attack, providing them with CPR resources until an ambulance arrives. Denmark is the first country to adopt the Swedish app nation-wide and, according to a Washington Post report, it's saving lives. It could also influence the way the world responds to medical emergencies.

The app works like this: After 112 (the Danish emergency response number) is called in response to someone suffering cardiac arrest, the dispatcher will send an ambulance while also putting out a "citizen responder" request through Heartrunner. The dispatcher will then contact the volunteer who accepted the request, usually within walking distance, leading them to the nearest automated external defibrillator or AED (a machine that can be found in many public places, Gizmodo reports). The dispatcher may also give them instructions on performing CPR once they get there. 

Much of the app's success can be measured in Sweden, where Heartrunner and similar technology has been researched in Stockholm since 2010. According to research cited on Heartrunner's page, volunteers responded faster than emergency services 47% of the time, and their early intervention increased survival chances in many patients.


Heartrunner tells volunteers where to find AEDs that can help save a life during a heart attack.

Xinhua News Agency/Getty

PulsePoint, a US app with a similar concept, may not be seeing the same success rate as its European counterparts because it can only be used when "adopted" by local public safety agencies, or because of people's reluctance to accept help from untrained volunteers, the Post reports. But the idea of people signing up to help others is not a new concept in apps, and others such as the Danish Be My Eyes app, which connects users with other users with blindness or vision impairment, shows just how much people are willing to assist others. About 4,000,000 people worldwide have volunteered on Be My Eyes, according to the company.

According to the CDC, someone in the US has a heart attack every 40 seconds. There are also racial disparities in cardiac events, with Black Americans being more at risk of dying from cardiac arrest than White Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Early intervention is important when someone is having a heart attack, and adequate health care is not always accessible. Getting apps like Heartrunner on the market and into the hands of people who are prepared to perform CPR in order to save another's life may help close a gap in emergency health care.

About 9.8% of people survive out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the US (prepandemic), the Washington Post reported. In Denmark, the survival rate over the past 20 years has increased from 4 to 16%, it reported.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.