In urgent need of an EpiPen? App may find you one, stat
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In urgent need of an EpiPen? App may find you one, stat

Israeli researchers and Magen David Adom create community of allergy sufferers who can help each other out in a pinch, using proximity-based algorithms

An illustrative image of an anaphylaxis auto injector for allergy reactions (CarrieCaptured; iStock by Getty Images)
An illustrative image of an anaphylaxis auto injector for allergy reactions (CarrieCaptured; iStock by Getty Images)

Israeli researchers have teamed up with Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency medical service, to create an app that can provide immediate help to patients having an acute allergic reaction. The app is the first patient-centric social network of its kind for the delivery of emergency medication, Bar-Ilan University said in a statement on Monday.

Millions of severe allergy sufferers are at high risk of going into anaphylactic shock, a serious allergic reaction that can cause death within minutes. The severe reaction can be treated with the EpiPen, a pen-like autoinjector that is used to deliver the life-saving medication epinephrine.

Unfortunately, many allergy patients don’t carry, or forget to carry, their medication with them at all times.  In the case of sudden anaphylactic shock, these patients are completely dependent on the timely arrival of emergency services.

To address this problem, Prof. David Schwartz and doctoral students Michael Khalemsky and Michal Gaziel Yablowitz, from the School of Business Administration at Bar-Ilan University, worked closely with MDA’s team, led by  Dr. Eli Jaffe, to create the “EPIMADA” app. Launched recently, it already has hundreds of registered users in Israel.

An illustrative photo of an ambulance belonging to the Magen David Adom ambulance service in the West Bank. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Using proximity-based algorithms, much like those used by ride-sharing firms like Uber and Gett, which connect customers via smartphones to the nearest available taxi, MDA uses the app to dispatch a registered allergy patient to help another patient in immediate need of an EpiPen.  In Israel there are approximately 20,000 people with epinephrine auto injector prescriptions and this number is on the rise, the statement said.

“The potential of leveraging patients carrying the same medication to respond in emergencies is enormous,” said Schwartz.  “With hundreds of allergy sufferers signed on and more to follow, we hope that this initiative helps save crucial minutes to first epinephrine use.”

“Our preliminary research results show that allergy patients are highly motivated to give their personal EpiPen to patient-peers in immediate need, something generally uncommon among total strangers,” said doctoral student Michal Gaziel Yablowitz.

The fact that EPIMADA is a downloadable and carefully monitored mobile community opens the door to exciting research into the behavior and benefits of emergency response communities, the researchers said.

The EPIMADA app is the first field test of an international Emergency Response Communities initiative, the statement said.

Two similar initiatives are currently underway.  The first is at Charité Hospital – Universitӓtsmedizin Berlin. Initial data is being collected and the app may make its debut in Germany in a year. The second is at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where the researchers are using the same idea to develop an app that will be used in the case of opioid overdose.  The Social Intelligence Lab at Bar-Ilan University’s Graduate School of Business Administration initiated both projects, along with the allergy one in Israel. The lab seeks to use the wisdom of the crowd for medical purposes and health informatics.

Studies presenting the innovative ERC concept have been published in the scientific journals ACM Computing Surveys and Decision Support Systemsthe statement said.

The EPIMADA app is currently available and in use only in Israel. Allergy patients with epinephrine prescriptions can apply to join the community by contacting MADA at Tel: *6210 or by email to abigailk@mda.org.il

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