Tulane alum’s emergency medical response app wins Big Idea competition

In a city USA Today ranked in the third tier of major cities for emergency medical services, a Tulane alumnus was inspired by a “Big Idea” to improve New Orleans EMS.

The ninth annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week ended with “The Big Idea,” a pitch competition in which the audience picks the winner. Ready Responders, a startup founded by Benjamin Swig, beat out nine other startups to win a $25,000 grant and a $30,000 marketing package from Peter Mayer Advertising.

Ready Responders is designed to cut down on the time it takes trained emergency medical personnel to respond to emergency situations. The startup recruits and trains part-time emergency medical technicians willing to help respond to calls. When a person calls 911 after a medical emergency, the Ready Responders app sends a notification to EMTs in close proximity, allowing them to arrive quickly and provide care until an ambulance arrives.

Swig graduated from Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in 2009 and received an Executive MBA from the A.B. Freeman School of Business in 2016. He partnered with Justin Dangel, who came up with the idea after visiting Israel, to cofound Ready Responders.

“My partner went to Israel, and he had learned about United Rescue and how the ambulance service dispatched personnel in Israel … They’ve recruited a network of part-time EMTs and trained them, and they have over 4,000 they’re equipping with First Aid and [automated external defibrillators],” Swig said. “And in Israel, they’ve been reporting that they’ve been able to get to emergencies in three to four minutes.”

The app and program will be introduced in three phases over the next six to 12 months. The first phase provides EMTs for emergency situations and potentially shortens the time between the initial call and medical care.

Swig said that many of the city’s residents call 911 when they do not necessarily need emergency assistance. He hopes that phases two and three will benefit patients by providing non-emergency care and preventative health services.

Phase two will incorporate a nurse hotline patients can use to ask questions about general health and to seek help in specific medical situations. The third phase will connect patients and responders to hospital physicians who can assess patients’ conditions and determine the appropriate medical care.

Ready Responders produced a video explaining that in a city with a population of 400,000 people, the startup’s services will save 200-300 lives per year. The same video projects that the initiative will save New Orleans $2 million or more, save insurers $15 million or more and create both entry-level and part-time jobs throughout the city.

While Ready Responders will be launched in New Orleans, Swig believes that the startup can be beneficial to a variety of communities around the country.

“It could be applied to other cities and other countries because our model of using contractors and part-time labor can really fit rural communities and less-affluent countries,” Swig said. “Every type of community could benefit from it in some shape or form.”

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