Q&A: Mobile app guides emergency help to victims of heart attack


A new app developed by the students at Ghent University gets medically trained volunteers to the scene of an emergency as quickly as possible

Every minute counts

Eva Degraeuwe is part of a team of student entrepreneurs at Ghent University that has developed the mobile app Emergency Volunteer Application (EVapp). It ensures that medically trained volunteers respond to victims of a heart attack as quickly as possible, saving lives before the ambulance arrives.

How does EVapp work?
When a heart attack occurs, someone calls the emergency number 112. Then the emergency dispatch centre uses the app to mobilise volunteers such as doctors and nurses, or anyone who can do CPR. The app starts with the nearest person. Two people are mobilised to get on the scene and start basic life support. It then mobilises a third or a fourth person to get an automatic external defibrillator to restart the heart.

How many volunteers do you need and are they always required to respond?
You need about five people in a one-kilometre radius. We are fairly densely populated in Belgium, and over half a million people know CPR. Our recruitment plan is to get 40,000 volunteers to cover the country. Belgian law does not make you liable for providing care, but we have also made it possible for volunteers to accept or decline a call, so they are not pressured. There is also an electronic calendar where volunteers can indicate their availability. 

Was the app hard to design?
The biggest challenge was privacy. We work with sensitive data – the volunteers’ medical and personal information – so we had to make sure that the dot on the screen cannot be linked back to the person. We did that by working closely with the Belgian Privacy Commission.

What’s next?
We are starting test projects with municipalities in Antwerp province, which will show how fast we can get people there and give us average survival numbers. EVapp is set up as a non-governmental organisation. We are not looking for any profit at all. We just want the application out there.

Photo courtesy EVapp