Mobile devices, social media, visual media and crowdsourcing have potential to improve emergency care for cardiac arrest, heart attack and stroke, according to a new scientific statement.

The statement, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, is based on studies that evaluated the effectiveness of digital strategies in emergency cardiac and stroke care.

“Digital platforms can support existing efforts to educate people about what to do in an emergency,” said Raina Merchant, M.D., M.S.H.P., co-author of the statement and director of the Social Media Lab at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Learning what to do — including how to perform CPR and recognizing the symptoms of stroke — is something many people can do that can save lives.”

Positive results of digital strategies include a Swedish study in which 62 percent of people alerted to use a mobile phone application within 500 meters of a cardiac arrest victim started CPR, while only 48 percent of bystanders without the app started CPR.

In a Japanese study, emergency department personnel who sent pictures of 12-lead ECGs via their smartphone instead of fax to interventional cardiologists shaved 1.5 minutes off the time clinicians needed to diagnose a patient.

Smartphone apps to view brain images for stroke and Face Time videoconferencing apps to assess stroke patients by a remote neurologist may also be feasible, the statement authors said. But more evidence of the effectiveness of using the tools is needed.

To date, no research has shown negative results of using digital tools for emergency cardiac or stroke care. But the authors said unintended consequences to patients due to inaccurate information provided via digital tools could lead to medical errors, higher costs and disclosing patients’ health information in violation of federal privacy law.

“As many of these interventions are new and emerging, it is an optimal time to conduct rigorous evaluations just as are done for traditional medical therapies and interventions,” Merchant said.