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Distress Signal

Wilmington, DE – Last year, a company called HelpAround really caught our eye. The Israel-based startup’s app, Diabetes Helpers, was an interesting example of how share-economy principles (think peer-to-peer and collaborative like Airbnb or TaskRabbit) could be applied to chronic disease management. It simplifies the complexity of diabetes management by letting patients and caregivers form a layer of immediate, nearby help for sudden crisis situations. The network can do things like connect someone who ran out of test strips with someone nearby who can lend a few. Or let someone who has a rash from an insulin pump get advice from others who’ve dealt with a similar issue.

The app has a growing base of active supporters, many of whom use it daily, and according to co-founder and CEO, Yishai Knobel, about 90% of all questions and requests that are posted receive answers. In fact he’s noted that sharing a chronic condition such as diabetes can instill a drive to help that goes above and beyond the norm:    

We were very pleasantly surprised to see even if it’s someone with the same CGM [continuous glucose monitor] as I have 30 minutes away, they jump in the car and drive the 30 minutes to help each other. It happens all the time. The solidarity still compensates for [the distances].

Recently, HelpAround has launched the next level of support tool—one that anticipates need and responds—with it’s newest app, Alert. Alert integrates with Apple’s HealthKit data to provide more immediate access to help in times of distress. When it detects glucose levels that are out-of-range, Alert can notify the user and immediately sends a popup to initiate a group text or conference call to a preset list of emergency contacts. It can also connect to the Diabetes Helpers app and notify other users in the area, casting an even wider net for assistance.

Diabetes Helpers (left) and Alert (right)

There are future plans to partner with Uber, giving you the ability to request a car right from the alert screen, and a version set to release for the Apple Watch soon (a logical form factor for a truly smart “help button”). Expansion into other chronic conditions such as epilepsy and mental health are also underway.

Alert represents a new type of real-time support solution that we should start to see more of as integration between services, communities, and devices becomes tighter and more personal. With more and more sensors (and data) all around us, it just makes sense to start finding ways to bridge the gap between activity and action.