And in October 2010, Bobrow and colleagues published a study that found hands-only CPR by bystanders was associated with even better survival rates than conventional CPR.
Doctors said that people are often hesitant to perform mouth-to-mouth on strangers. Hands-only is a simpler regimen. By lifting that barrier, experts hoped that more people would jump in to perform CPR when necessary.
"One of the key reasons that we have arrived at this juncture is that it was recognized that mouth-to-mouth breathing lent a great deal of complexity and discomfort to CPR, but did not provide much benefit," said Wilson. "Once we were able to remove mouth-to-mouth from the equation, CPR became a much more simple procedure."
Besides the germ factor, doctors said there are several reasons why people do not perform CPR as bystanders.
"People are often afraid that they're going to hurt the person and don't fully appreciate that all you can do is help someone who has gone into sudden cardiac arrest," said Abella.
Dr. Michael Sayre, associate professor in the department of emergency medicine at the Ohio State University Medical Center, offered three more reasons: People panic. They don't feel competent or that they can help. And they fear legal consequences.
"I doubt that a short video is going to overcome the panic factor, but it might help," said Sayre. "The study shows that the short video can help rescuers perform CPR more competently. Video can also address the unfounded fear of legal consequences from attempting to save a life."
Sayre said that all 50 states have Good Samaritan laws that protect rescuers from any legal backlash or situations after CPR attempts.
More Americans die each year from sudden cardiac arrest than from breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and AIDS combined, Sayre said.
"You are more likely to survive a plane crash than a sudden cardiac arrest," he said.
High rates of CPR success may be able to counter those low rates of survival. Because the CPR video lasts only one minute, the study authors are currently seeking ways to get this quick and easy information to the public for free.
"With all the different media platforms, we could get this information to the public in a lot of different venues," said Bobrow. "That's what really gets us excited. We're on the brink of finally changing survival rates."
Bobrow and Abella said they hoped to distribute the training video in a way that made it easy for people to get the information. Making it available on smart phones, in doctors' offices or in PSA announcements would help get the CPR message out.
"It is not unthinkable that after a sudden cardiac event, like the death of Tim Russert, one of the networks might donate 60 seconds of prime airtime as a public service, potentially having an immediate impact," said Wilson.
The authors believe that a simple video could literally mean the difference between life or death.
"We need more attention on this disease," said Abella. "Up until 20 years ago, cardiac arrest was synonymous with death, but we are seeing more survivals. This is no longer a disease without hope."