By now most of us have heard of ‘sick-outs’, when people who can’t afford the care they need for their health are forced to rely on charities and the state to help.
But for people who are struggling financially, it’s just one more tool they may need to survive.
A team of Australian researchers, led by Dr Helen O’Neill from the University of Melbourne, have now developed a system that would make it easy to use as a last resort.
The system is called a ‘health bank’ and it uses a smartphone app to track a person’s income and then sends it directly to the bank.
If they need help in the short term, it’ll send them a text message to let them know where to go.
And if they need more help, the bank will set up a 24-hour service.
In other words, they don’t need to rely solely on the state or charities.
They can work out where to get help if they are struggling with chronic conditions or don’t have money for care.
The team is now looking for volunteers to test their prototype with.
“We want to get as many people using this system as possible, so that if we find a problem in the next 12 hours we can get immediate help,” Dr O’Neil told New Scientist.
The idea behind the bank was originally conceived in 2013 as part of a PhD project at the University the team are currently in.
The first step was to create a smartphone application that could help people track their income.
The next step was developing a smartphone that could track people’s health.
The final step was making the system real.
It is now available to download and install on your smartphone.
Dr O’thenne says she was inspired by a similar system developed in Finland that was tested with more than a million people.
“What we found is that it really helps people who need help,” she said.
The app is already being used in the UK, where the Government has set up an app-based health service for those struggling with illness.
The UK has a population of around 5 million, making it the second most populous country in the world after China.
“The UK is also the most developed country in Europe and the second-most developed country globally, and yet there are a lot of people who don’t really have access to a health service,” Dr Ozner said.
“This is a new approach that gives people the chance to connect with other people who have the same problems, and help them in their journey towards recovery.”
The team will also be working with charities to see how the system can be used to help other people in need.
“As a healthcare service provider, we have to make sure we’re helping people, so we have this really big responsibility of caring for the people we’re working with,” Dr Osborn said.