Massachusetts General Hospital ACLS: ACLS Quick Reference App in the Time of COVID

Nothing in medicine quickens the pulse faster than hearing a “code blue” call overhead and quickly moving to the location to evaluate. Frequently, these may just be someone experiencing a vasovagal episode from a blood draw in the lab, but frequently it is the real thing — especially when these occur on the wards and in the ICU. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) has been considered the standard of care for guideline development for resuscitation from neonates to adults for decades. Virtually all providers are required to obtain at least basic CPR certification and others depending on their specialty/location of work may require advanced life-saving for adults (ACLS), children (PALS), and/or neonates (NRP — technically not a AHA course). Others for obstetrics (ALSO), early newborn care (STABLE), and wilderness medicine (AWLS) exist and are based on the general framework created by the AHA. The American Red Cross (ACR) also offers courses. 

The AHA previously released the outstanding Full Code Pro app that I still use for its outstanding code-tracking functions. It does not have the entire algorithms included in the app. Many apps, from Epocrates to dedicated non-AHA apps, include the basic algorithms. But I have yet to see an app that included the algorithms for ACLS combined with some code tracking functions until now. 

The AHA has permitted the team at Mass General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard to create MGH ACLS. It was developed by the MGH Healthcare Transformation Lab (HTL). This new app provides the approved 2019 AHA ACLS algorithms with timers and trackers, checklists, helpful drop down menus to be used during a code. The app even includes a version of the ACLS Cardiac Arrest algorithm that takes into account COVID-19 (based on their 2020 update). 

Evidence-based medicine

The app includes a dedicated section on the evidence and cites the current AHA 2019 life support guidelines, and the 2020 COVID-19 update from the AHA in cooperation with other societies. The app includes hyperlinks to those two references. The app developers have permission from the AHA for the use of their content/scenarios. 

What patients/providers would benefit from this App?

Students, residents, EMTs, mid-levels, primary care, emergency medicine or any healthcare provider who provides ACLS and wants to improve their resuscitation skills.


o Free


  • Developed jointly between Harvard/MGH and the AHA
  • Uses current 2019 AHA ACLS guidelines and the 2020 COVID update
  • Handy timers


  • Code-tracking functions limited to primarily timers and dosing for epi/shock tracking only
  • Section on COVID lacks detail
  • Not available for Android


MGH ACLS is a fantastic addition to the app store as a quality ACLS quick-reference app/code tracker. Although I found code tracking tools less detailed than Full Code Pro from the AHA, the quality of the algorithm sections is quite high and approved by the AHA. The app seems to provide the best of both worlds, but currently only available on iOS. Hopefully, an Android version will be forthcoming. This is definitely an app that I will use in the hospital and clinic alike. Highly recommended.

Overall Score

o 4.5 stars

User Interface

o 4.5 stars

Clean and easy to navigate the main page. Algorithm pages and drop-down menus scale well on iOS devices.

Multimedia Usage

o 4.0 stars

The app includes timers for total code time, CPR, epinephrine, and shocks given. No other hyperlinks, calculators, etc. included.


o 5.0 stars

The app is free. 

Real-World Applicability

o 5.0 stars

MGH ACLS is a fantastic new app to ensure proper code management. The app combines the most current AHA algorithms with timers and checklists to ensure codes are performed properly and all interventions timely. The app even has a version of ACLS cardiac arrest adapted to COVID-19. The app is an absolute must for any provider who runs codes.

Device Used For Review

o iPhone 11 Pro running iOS 13.6.1

Available on iOS for iPhone and iPad, not available for Android at this time.


Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.