American Stroke Association launches app to ID symptoms

By Aditi Pai
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Spot Stroke FAST appThis week the American Stroke Association, American Heart Association, and Ad Council officially launched Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T., an app that aims to help users identify when someone is having a stroke. The app was based on Think FAST, and app launched by Australia's National Stroke Foundation in 2010.

F.A.S.T. stands for the steps a bystander should take to determine whether someone is having a stroke. "F" prompts the bystander to ask the patient to smile, while checking if his or her face droops on one side. "A" reminds the bystander to ask the patient to raise his or her arms and check if one drifts downwards. "S" stands for asking the patient to repeat a simple phrase as the bystander assesses if that person's speech is slurred or strange sounding. "T" stands for time and reminds the bystander to quickly call 911 if they believe the person they are with is suffering from a stroke.

The new app is not only designed for emergencies but also as a tool for information on dealing with and preventing a stroke. In an urgent situation, a user can check stroke symptoms, locate nearby hospitals and connect to the local 911 hotline. For non-emergency situations, the app contains a video that shows users how to identify stroke symptoms and resources to prevent a stroke ahead of time.

Hank Wasiak, chair of the American Stroke Association Advisory Committee, told MobiHealthNews that he hopes the app will build awareness and understanding of how to identify when someone is having a stroke.

"The reason we [launched the app] is that one of the most important things -- either when you’re having a stroke or someone you know or love is having a stroke -- is to get treatment fast," Wasiak said. "Because the longer you wait to get that treatment, the more brain cells you have to rejuvenate."

The app is part of a longtime, broader campaign to spread awareness about how to identify a stroke: The newest iteration of the campaign includes an infographic and an online video PSA.

"We hope it will increase awareness of the signs and symptoms, that people will say this is something I should know and keep at my fingertips," Wasiak said. "My personal crusade is that everybody should have the app on their phone. [Mobile operators] should have it preloaded [on phones]."

Wasiak noted that underserved communities, particularly African American and Hispanic communities, have higher rates of incidents of stroke, but also a higher use of mobile devices.

"If we want to make a difference we have to take it digital and especially mobile," Wasiak said. "We look at digital and mobile as a very important part of what we’re doing at the American Heart Association because we all come out of a traditional world. Mobile and digital is playing such an important role in how consumers access healthcare, we want to be there."

After first launching for iOS users in January and Android users earlier this month, the app now has more than 7,000 downloads to date. Wasiak said that the groups plan to measure the campaign's impact by conducting benchmark studies, and tracking calls to 911 emergency services that were initiated by users of the app.

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