We all have our forgetful moments, but what if being forgetful could cost you your life? For the nearly 347 million people diagnosed with diabetes around the world, forgetting their insulin pump or test strips at home could be a matter of life or death.
“Diabetics often find themselves in dangerous, scary, or unpredictable situations,” HelpAround CEO Yishai Knobel tells NoCamels, “and running back home is not always an option.” That’s why he and co-founder Shlomi Aflalo developed HelpAround, a crowdsourcing application for people with diabetes and other chronic diseases, allowing them to communicate and get immediate help from people in the vicinity.
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“The inspiration for HelpAround came when an AgaMatrix investor, Robert Oringer, was at a hockey game with his two Type I diabetic children,” says Knobel, a former mobile health executive for diabetes tech giant AgaMatrix. “When his son started to feel unwell, Oringer realized he had forgotten the diabetes kit at home. Oringer managed to get back home on time, but thought there must be a better way.”
Knowing that one in ten people suffers from diabetes in the US, Oringer realized that an app would have made it much easier to reach out to the crowd to get his son the medication he needed. “We understood the need for a crowdsourcing application where people have the ability to help each other in situations like these.,” says Knobel.
Help is all around you
With HelpAround, users are given the option to choose from one or more health networks with people suffering from similar chronic diseases or conditions, who can lend a hand in times of crisis. The network then categorizes the users into sub-groups. For diabetics, it could be parents dealing with diabetic children, diabetic caregivers, or diabetes “helpers” (either diabetics themselves, or people with extensive knowledge about diabetes).
Once users have joined a health network, HelpAround provides starts acting as a safety for patients when they require urgent assistance. “Users have the ability to see the six closest people in their area, who have signed up as diabetes helpers without revealing their exact location,” Knobel tells NoCamels. “Once a request is sent, the people nearest to the user will receive a real-time notification on their phone with the request, allowing them respond directly,” he adds.
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The application also acts as a global support network for the various communities. Knobel says these communities often forge extremely close bonds and recalls a woman who could not afford sensors for her glucose monitor. “Two people from the HelpAround community asked what type she needed, jumped in and [mailed] them to her.”
More assistance for those who need it
An additional service which HelpAround is set to release this year will be called “concierge services” and will offer options for more advanced medical treatment by professionals. It will give users the ability to order medication to be mailed to them and request the help of a local nurse who will remain on-call 24/7 for more serious cases. HelpAround stresses that the goal of the “concierge services” function is not to replace traditional emergency or regular medical services, but to act as a convenient and friendly alternative in times of need.
The application is currently limited to mobile devices and can be downloaded by Apple and Android users. The company claims that at least 30 percent of their users use the app every day, and that 90 percent of the posted questions and requests are answered by other users.
With the majority of users coming from the US, most HelpAround investors hail from the app’s American fan-base, including the man who was responsible for idea behind the innovation, Robery Oringer. With growing popularity in other Anglo-Saxon countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, HelpAround’s crowdsourcing platform for health has already garnered several thousand followers since its release at the end of 2013.