Free social-tech app Helplink aims to disrupt Ireland’s healthcare set-up

10 Sep 2013

(From left) Sean Coleman, NUI Galway graduate and creator of the Helplink app; Dr Owen Molloy, NUI Galway's Discipline of Information Technology; and Lochlann Scott, managing director, Helplink

Helplink is a new social enterprise spun out of NUI Galway, and is this week launching a free health-tech app for Android and iOS. Sean Coleman of NUI Galway’s IT department has worked with fellow academics at the university, plus Lochlann Scott, a research psychologist with the HSE, and industry to spawn Helplink. It’s a free booking and directory-services app targeting at bringing Ireland’s healthcare, beauty and leisure industries into the digital age.

The new app, also called Helplink, is free to download and and will allow users to book appointments 24/7. Think dentist, doctor, beauty salon, physiotherapy, and chiropractor appointments.

Bringing healthcare services and leisure pursuits into the digital age

As well as this, the goal will be to allow people to check out services from practitioners, healthcare providers and those operating in the fields of beauty and alternative healthcare. This directory will also be free for people to browse through and use.

The app now has more than 2,500 listings of public and private health and well-being services from around Ireland.

Categories that come under this umbrella include hospitals, opticians, home care services, chemists (plus late-night services) and yoga centres.

Users of the app, explained Coleman, will also have the option of scooping up cancelled appointments by viewing appointments in real-time. The idea, according to Coleman, is that health and well-being providers can fill appointments they may have lost before.

Technology transfer

Coleman worked under the direction of Dr Owen Molloy in the IT department at NUI Galway, to develop the app.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) also provided an Innovation Voucher to allow the R&D and tech transfer to happen.

Molloy said the EI scheme provided a “cost-effective way” for local industry to engage with the team’s R&D capability at NUI Galway.

Also on the industry side, Eircom helped support the creation of Helplink’s website.

Social tech

The social venture’s new managing director, Lochlann Scott, is also a lecturer and social care worker with the HSE, as well as a research psychologist. He is also a former alumnus in psychology from NUI Galway.

The reason for creating Helplink, he said, was to lower the cost of providing health and support services.

In addition, he said the goal was also to make these services and health information accessible to everyone in Ireland, no matter where they are located.

“Our directory is our first completely free service to the public and this new appointment-booking system was a logical next move to my mind,” Scott said.

Freeing up A&E departments

Scott said the app also has the scope to free up A&E departments around the country, as people will be able to source real-time appointments for minor injuries, so they don’t have to hang around A&E waiting rooms all day or night.

As well as the Helplink directory being free to download and use, details of a person’s chosen listing will be sent to the user’s phone by text for free.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store, iTunes and the Google Play by searching ‘helplink’.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic