Pulse Point app, courtesy of UPMC.

UPMC debuted a commercial for its Minutes Matter program during the Super Bowl, a partnership with the City of Pittsburgh, which they say helps turn anyone into a first responder during an emergency.

“The truth is, everybody has the opportunity sooner or later, to either respond to one of these emergencies or know somebody who did,” says Donald Yealy, professor and chair for emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. “So I can’t protect you from being around emergencies, but if we just taught you a few simple steps, it won’t quite be so scary, and it’ll help.”


Minutes Matter focuses on three types of emergencies: trauma — like falls or car wrecks — cardiac arrest and opioid overdose.

“We recognize now, for example, that if someone has cardiac arrest, 40 percent of the time a bystander starts some sort of intervention to help out,” notes Yealy. “That’s better than a lot of places, but there’s still 60 percent opportunity.”

In many cases, the skills needed — while simple — have changed over time. “You don’t actually have to put your lips on anybody anymore,” says Yealy. “That’s not as helpful as we once thought.” While the training provided isn’t very technical, it’s likely different than what you heard 10 years ago, he adds. “We’ve learned from research — what are the few simple steps that matter?”

You can sign up for training sessions about life-saving techniques, like basic CPR and using AED defibrillators on the program’s website.

There’s also an app called PulsePoint that alerts you to an emergency in your immediate vicinity. When an emergency is reported to 911, users of the app and trained EMS professionals will receive a notification, giving the patient a greater chance of survival.

“It automatically tells you, without giving away any patient-sensitive information,” says Yealy. “What if I was sitting at a restaurant two blocks from here? Who would be close by, who could make those crucial first few minutes happen?”

Pittsburgh is an obvious place to launch such a program because of the wealth of experience and history of acute care innovation here.

When Peter Safar, the father of CPR, came to the University of Pittsburgh from Baltimore,  he recognized that a ‘chain of survival’ existed in Pittsburgh, explains Yealy, adding that each link had to be as strong as possible, using research and teaching to continually improve upon things. “He also recognized that the very first link was whoever was right there at the moment of the event — and that, very often, would not be a healthcare professional.”

Pittsburgh has been pioneering acute care, both inside and outside the hospital, since the mid-1960s, Yealy notes.

“It’s really been the place where new programs began — one of the earliest EMS systems is here in town,” says Yealy. “A lot of the research was generated here. This is a chance to expand that into the entire community. It’s incredibly novel. I’m not aware of another program like this across the U.S.”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife,...