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Huoleti connects patients with those who care

Huoleti’s mobile app helps create a peer support network for people with health challenges and their loved ones.Emilia Anundi

When you are faced with a severe illness or injury, everyday tasks can suddenly become a struggle. Now Finnish healthtech startup Huoleti is on a mission to make asking for help a breeze.

Huoleti is built around the idea that people want to offer assistance but don’t always know how. This is particularly prescient when someone close to you falls ill or gets injured.

The company removes these issues with a mobile app of the same name, which effortlessly connects patients and their friends, families, peers and volunteer helpers. A patient can invite their loved ones to join the app and when they need help – whether it’s picking up milk or walking their dog – send out a request to their support group.

“You don’t have to ask anyone separately; the request goes to everyone in your network,” explains Carita Savin, Huoleti CEO and co-founder. “It lowers the barrier for asking help and no one has to say they can’t help. Instead, those who can reply to the request do and the patient then chooses whose help they would like.”

The app, which is currently in a pilot phase, also doubles as a peer-to-peer social support network. When you battle with health issues, talking with others in the same situation can be a crucial coping mechanism. Huoleti enables this by showing other app users with similar illnesses nearby, making it easy for them to connect both online and in real life.

Competition ready

The challenges Huoleti addresses are all too familiar to its co-founder and COO Maria Lipsonen, whose daughter has type 1 diabetes. She says the diagnosis came as a complete shock and was compounded by the fact she didn’t know anyone in the same situation.

“Yes, we got the proper treatment but there were so many questions, and fear concerning your child’s health, how to manage everyday situations and so on,” Lipsonen recalls. “I started a support group, but meeting once a month wasn’t enough. Then we created a Facebook group, but it quickly became too crowded. The need for better peer support channels is huge.”

Huoleti founders Carita Savin (left) and Maria Lipsonen believe the future of health apps is communal. “We call it modern communality,” Savin says. “People are going back to communities, but increasingly they will be enabled by digital tools like ours.” Image: Emilia Anundi

Consequently, Lipsonen was immediately hooked when she heard about Savin’s idea for a dedicated peer-to-peer support network. At the time Savin was developing an early version of Huoleti for a cancer services innovation competition and Lipsonen wanted to help. The app won the competition.

“We got very positive feedback that there is need for this kind of a service. The app also raised interest among investors,” Lipsonen says. “So, in January 2017 we made the brave decision to leave our day jobs and become startup entrepreneurs.”

And the duo, who share a background in Nokia, haven’t looked back. Initially the Huoleti app was developed in collaboration with cancer associations and patients, but it has since been expanded to cover various illnesses, injuries and wellbeing challenges. The service was also opened up to volunteers, such as healthcare students, who can offer their help to those who don’t have families close by.

Future is communal

The target for Huoleti is to release the app’s first commercial version in Finland by early 2018. Development has been boosted by the startup’s partnership with various Finnish health associations, pension insurance company Etera and a collaboration agreement with multinational healthcare giant Roche.

Savin and Lipsonen have also scouted opportunities in the US, which is attractive for its considerable market potential and investor base. “Our goal is to be a support network that is always in your pocket, no matter where you are in the world,” Savin says. “We want this to grow into a global service.”

Huoleti is filling a gap missed by existing health care services, but Savin hopes it will also help drive a broader trend of caring for others. She is getting tired of the current wellbeing obsessions with self-monitoring and individual coaching.

“I believe communal services are on the rise, which will have a wider effect on the society,” she explains. “At the moment people are diverging from one another, but technology has the potential to brings us back together with peer networks.

By: Eeva Haaramo