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INNOVATORS Q&A

R.I. startup’s new app brings CPR certification to your smartphone

Developed by two former Brown University students, ResusciTech helps train and certify users for first aid and CPR using a mobile app

Abigail Kohler is the co-founder and chief executive of ResusciTech, a Providence-based startup that developed an app to help train and certify users in CPR and First Aid.
Abigail Kohler is the co-founder and chief executive of ResusciTech, a Providence-based startup that developed an app to help train and certify users in CPR and First Aid.Abigail Kohler

The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Edward Fitzpatrick at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com and to Alexa Gagosz at alexa.gagosz@globe.com

Abigail Kohler is co-founder and chief executive of ResusciTech, a Providence-based startup that recently developed an app that brings first aid and CPR training and certification to iOS and Android platforms, without additional equipment needed.

Q: What inspired the development of this type of technology and when was ResusciTech created?

Kohler: My cofounder, Greg Fine, and I started ResusciTech in October of 2018 when we were both juniors at Brown. At the time, I was taking a medical illustration class that gave me the opportunity to do observations in hospitals. While observing, I overheard an EMT talking about how difficult it is to do CPR because it’s challenging to gauge compression depth.

We then relied on our engineering backgrounds and began to develop a solution: software that can measure chest compression depth and rate all from a smartphone. Our continued research brought us to a CPR training class, where we realized we could use our technology to make significant improvements and bring CPR training into the 21st century.

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Q: Why should people turn to your new app instead of getting CPR certified in more-traditional ways?

Kohler: Our app is far more convenient and accessible than traditional classes, without sacrificing quality. We combine the best that e-learning has to offer with the hands-on component of CPR feedback so that you have an engaging and fruitful learning experience. We leverage smartphones to bring interactive CPR training straight to you, without added costs, equipment, wasted time, or dull lectures like traditional classes. Our technology modernizes CPR training and enables completely remote CPR certification.

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Q: Tell us about how the Smart Certification app works.

Kohler: After downloading the app, users can create an account and start learning for free. Users then complete interactive education sessions and learn basic first aid, AED use, and CPR. Then, they can practice their chest compressions with real time feedback.

To do this, users hold their phones while performing chest compressions on a household object like a couch cushion. We use the sensors that are already in your phone to measure and analyze the compressions you perform. In real time, the phone provides audio feedback and visual feedback to guide you and correct your compressions, proving your capability and giving you confidence.

After this, users can decide whether or not to purchase a certificate, and then they are done! We give users the opportunity to learn completely free of charge on our platform.

Q: You were recently named a finalist in the American Heart Association’s Empowered to Serve 2020 Business Accelerator, where you received a $40,000 grant for your work to train more people in hands-on CPR. What will that grant go toward?

Kohler: One of the first things we are going to do is get our app translated in multiple languages. Currently, it is only in English, but by having it translated we will be able to improve accessibility and bring life-saving training to more communities.

Beyond that, we are going to use it to improve awareness and create communities prepared for cardiac emergencies. We are planning to start some exciting initiatives to get users more involved and eager to become advocates for CPR knowledge in their own communities.

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Q: What are some of the biggest challenges that ResusciTech faces right now, and how will you address them?

Kohler: Right now we are gearing up for our public launch of the app this month. We have been beta testing, iterating, and improving past versions for months and I’m excited to launch it to the public. That being said, the shift from distribution of the app being controlled to being widely available on the app store is a daunting one. Our biggest challenge right now is trying to make sure we see and mitigate every potential pitfall before it happens and ensure that our launch goes smoothly.

Q: What are some goals that you and your team have for the next year? What about for the next five years?

Kohler: In the next year we are planning to develop several partnerships with businesses and even with local nonprofits who have a strong alignment with our mission. We are also planning to begin the necessary research and tests required to apply for FDA clearance so that our CPR feedback software is suitable for use on people during real emergencies. We also plan to expand our team and bring on people to conduct sales and manage our partnerships.

In the next five years our largest goal is to obtain FDA clearance on our CPR feedback software for use during real emergencies. Additionally, we plan to expand our training offerings to provide remote solutions for other types of medical training.

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Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.