John Kearney

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2015


This profile was prepared when John Kearney was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
John Kearney is breaking down the traditional structures of emergency care and creating volunteer networks of responders to dramatically transform rural medicine. Through his organization, Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR), he is creating desperately needed care systems for patients in rural areas, dramatically improving survival rates for time-urgent medical issues and saving lives. In times of acute medical need such as cardiac arrest, 70% of patients in Ireland, particularly in rural areas, die at home while waiting for care. Particularly in rural areas, ambulance services are overstretched and it can take hours before critically ill patients can reach an emergency care unit. John Kearney’s ICRR is focused on the “golden hour” – the critical time when high-level early intervention can save a life.
He is building a new field by creating a medical specialty in the gap between injury and hospital treatment: pre-hospital care. He is bringing the ER out to the patients, building a network of highly trained volunteer emergency medical personnel who can provide near-intensive care level treatment in life threatening circumstances in order to stabilize lives, building structures of community demand and support to spur growth. Beginning in Cork, John’s model creates community run rapid response teams trained in this pre-hospital specialty for medical emergencies throughout Ireland. He is utilizing existing resources and training them to operate at as high a level as ER-level doctors, in the field instead of in the hospital.
Partnering with national 999 services (equivalent to 911 in North America), ICRR offers the simultaneous deployment of off duty volunteer medical professionals including doctors, paramedics and other skilled practitioners such as police officers and fireman whenever a 999 emergency call is placed. ICRR supports each community team with infrastructure development, intensive bespoke training, and communication strategies to ensure that volunteers are organized and enabled to respond to medical emergency calls quickly and succinctly. ICRR volunteer response teams are provided frontline emergency response training, such as cardiopulmonary defibrillation, and are also supplied with proper equipment, such as Basic Life Support units, which can be transferred into existing ambulances as well as deployed in the field. As a result, community teams—similar to military medics in combat--are able to provide ER-level care, increasing the chances of recovery and survival.
John’s model builds a powerful current of community demand, creating local associations that allow rural areas to support their own medical care, fundraise locally, and dramatically improve their own safety in times of emergency. John is building partnerships with corporations, insurance companies, universities, and the Health Service Executive (national health department). He is designing new technologies to facilitate emergency telemedicine and local treatment. His model is rapidly expanding all over Ireland and has powerful implications for countries across Europe.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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