Diabetes Monitoring App Also Enables Patients to Call for Help

The app, called Alert, gets glucose readings through Apple HealthKit and lets users call for help if they are experiencing a health emergency.

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Diabetes patients who are in the midst of a health crisis due to low blood sugar can quickly notify up to three friends or family members that they need immediate help using a new diabetes monitoring app that turns a smartphone into a medical phone relaying system.

The app, called Alert, uses glucose readings taken with a wireless glucose meter and synchronized through Apple HealthKit to monitor a patient's readings, and can then contact help using a single touch on an iPhone to seek help. In addition to sending alerts, the app also allows a user to have a conference phone call with their three contacts to provide more details about the emergency they are having and to determine if an ambulance needs to be called.

The Alert app is the work of HelpAround, an Israeli startup that produced an earlier diabetes-themed app called Diabetes Helpers, which was released in July 2014. That app is a community tool that helps diabetes patients link up with others in their community who can provide help, support, local resources, answers to questions and more.

Yishai Knobel, CEO and co-founder of the company, told eWEEK that the new Alert app is available for iOS or Android, but that the Android version lacks direct links to the data that give the app its direct communications features. The patient's glucose readings are read through Apple's HealthKit tools and can be shared with a user's smartphone to trigger the alerts on iOS, he said. The glucose readings are collected manually by users with handheld glucose meters that have their own apps that collect the data for sharing with HealthKit and Alert. Patients with Type 1 diabetes have to test their blood glucose levels about 10 times a day. He said.

"We latch on top of that," said Knobel. "The minute a glucose reading comes and is out of range we say, 'hey, do you want to alert people?'"

The Alert app can assist a patient who is experiencing a low glucose level and may be near passing out, he said. Using the app, a screen will pop up on their smartphone when it gets the low glucose reading data and will ask the user if they want to send an alert to their three emergency contacts. The screen will show a button that with one push will allow them to alert their emergency contacts to get assistance.

"Multiple apps are working together to help users," said Knobel. "The beauty of HealthKit is that the transfer of all the medical data between the apps is now automatic."

For Android users, Alert so far does not collect the glucose data directly, so the app must be manually used by a patient to notify their emergency contacts that they need help. The Alert help screen can be found on the user's smartphone lock screen, where it can be easily accessed on Android devices, he said.

Knobel said the idea for the app was inspired by a friend who suffers from Type 1 diabetes and needed something like this in case of emergency. Many other diabetes apps today monitor and track glucose readings, but are aimed at helping patients track their status each day, rather than calling for help if needed.

The free version of the app does not include the conference calling capability, but instead provides text message notifications for free. Three free conference calls are included before a user would have to pay for the conference call service, if desired. The paid version of the app, with the conference calling capabilities, is $9.99 a month or $99 a year.