New App Uses Crowdsourcing to Find You an EpiPen in an Emergency
Many people at risk for severe allergic reactions to things like peanuts and bee stings carry EpiPens. These tools inject the medication epinephrine into one's bloodstream to control immune responses immediately. But exposure can turn into life-threatening situations in a flash: Without EpiPens, people could suffer anaphylactic shock in less than 15 minutes as they wait for an ambulance. Being without an EpiPen or other auto-injector can have deadly consequences.
EPIMADA, a new app created by researchers at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, is designed to save the lives of people who go into anaphylactic shock when they don't have EpiPens handy. The app uses the same type of algorithms that ride-hailing services use to match drivers and riders by location—in this case, EPIMADA matches people in distress with nearby strangers carrying EpiPens. David Schwartz, director of the university's Social Intelligence Lab and one of the app's co-creators, told The Jerusalem Post that the app currently has hundreds of users. Registered users are required to have an epinephrine prescription, and must apply (by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org) to join the community.
EPIMADA serves as a way to crowdsource medication from fellow patients who might be close by and able to help. While it may seem unlikely that people would rush to give up their own expensive life-saving tool for a stranger, EPIMADA co-creator Michal Gaziel Yablowitz, a doctoral student in the Social Intelligence Lab, explained in a press release that "preliminary research results show that allergy patients are highly motivated to give their personal EpiPen to patient-peers in immediate need."
EpiPen is easy to use, so even though fellow allergy sufferers may not have medical training, it's a relatively low-risk venture to ask them to treat a stranger the same way they'd treat themselves. The tool could be especially useful for children, who may be most likely to forget their EpiPens.
The app is currently available only in Israel, but the idea could be applicable across the world, for multiple life-threatening conditions. The researchers are collaborating on similar patient-to-patient apps elsewhere, including one in Philadelphia connecting people who carry the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone.