A new digital health app for connecting families and caregivers of children with special needs has been launched in Australia. The HELPA app allows users to search and connect to therapists and clinicians from their home via a smartphone. Available in iOS and Android, it offers a full range of support services across Australia and globally.

Sunshine Coast Queensland entrepreneur, Stuart Kruger came up with the idea for HELPA after his son Tyson, aged seven, was diagnosed with autism five years ago.

“Shortly after Tyson’s diagnosis, we quickly learned there was no comprehensive system that supports non-clinical carers such as families, siblings, friends, relatives and teachers,” he said. “There was nowhere for us to access relevant, affordable and valuable support options and subject matter expertise for instrumental aspects of daily life.”

He said the aim of the app is to bring families, caregivers and clinical subject matter experts together onto a single, simple, and secure mobile platform. “Communication is critical when providers and caregivers are supporting a person. HELPA connects these multiple providers and caregivers through one app, allowing several people to keep track of and share milestones, changes in health and other essential information. Our purpose is to use technology to support those lives. It also offers a pathway for therapists to apply their expertise, earn a living and balance lifestyle along the journey,” he said.

Kruger said HELPA was the only social care platform partnered with the Australian Government Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre.

“This supports our efforts of fast-tracking research outcomes, together with our university partners and communities. We aim to inform decision makers and policy makers with as many evidence-informed outcomes from the HELPA community as possible, leading to an increased awareness of the challenges these communities experience.”

He said even with one hour therapy sessions each week, there was still 8,708 hours annually of non-clinician time where Tyson needed support. “There was no tool to map his journey and extend the value of Tyson’s therapy, and no way for us to easily share his health progress and information, our social experiences, and what we had learned with others.”

The app will be particularly useful for carers to access services and support in rural and remote areas, or to access services where there are not enough providers to meet demand. Parents and caregivers can book a consultation when they most need help, such as dealing with challenging daily behaviour and connect via real-time HD video calling from anywhere, anytime.

The app is available for free download in the Apples iTune store and Google Play while carers pay for the services they access via the app.

HELPA has suggested the following rates for registered providers: $25 per 15-minute video interaction and $15 per 15-minute information review off-line booking.

The rate and time, however, may be adjusted by the therapist / subject matter expert and / or practice. A one-off $45 registration fees covers the credential checking process although fees may vary for institutions outside Australia.

For more information visit: https://helpa.app/faqs/ and for carers: https://helpa.app/carer-faqs/