Diabetes app uses Apple HealthKit data in realtime to alert caregivers

By Jonah Comstock
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HelpAroundAlertHelpAround, the Israel-based startup that raised $550,000 last year to bring the sharing economy to diabetes care, has launched a new app, Alert, which uses HealthKit data in realtime to provide support to patients.

The app imports glucose data from HealthKit and, when it detects a reading outside of a predetermined range, a popup gives the user a one-touch option to contact a predetermined list of friends and family. The user can send text message alerts to their contacts for free, or they can sign up for a paid premium option that allows the app to initiate a conference call.

“When we talked to our users, they talked about moments of distress,” HelpAround CEO Yishai Knobel said in a statement. “They talked about hyperglycemia, being confused, having panic attacks. And it was just about the time Apple came out with HealthKit. So we were already completely tuned to ‘What do I do when I’m in trouble?’ and then it became very clear that the best way to remove friction was to suggest to them a way to notify their support system. Instead of just sitting there and waiting for them, if we can already tell that something is going wrong than we can offer it to them.”

The app is also compatible with HelpAround’s existing app, Diabetes Helper. After the app initiates a conference call with the users’ support network, it can also automatically send out an alert to other Diabetes Helper users in the area. 

“When you’re on the call you can press one button that will send an ASAP message to the Diabetes Helpers app,” Knobel said. “So without even leaving Alert, you will have posted to Diabetes Helper with your specific location saying ‘Hey, I’m right now in a situation, is there any diabetes helper around me right now?’”

Knobel says that in the year since Diabetes Helper launched, there has been good adoption, but the company has also discovered that the service doesn’t need as much of a critical mass of users as might be expected.

“We were very pleasantly surprised to see even if it’s someone with the same CGM 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].”

Alert is available on iOS and Android, though the Android version has less functionality (there is no Android equivalent of HealthKit that tracks blood glucose). Text messages and up to three conference calls are free; users can get unlimited calls for a $9.95 per month subscription. An Apple Watch version is forthcoming.

HelpAround still has plans to expand its operations from diabetes to other chronic conditions, including mental health conditions and epilepsy. Knobel says Alert is also going to be part of these plans.

“Alert is not a diabetes app,” he said. “Alert can be used by anyone with any chronic condition, and the next logical step is we are listening to more and more sensors, and more and more data is coming into the system.”