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CincyInno: HiLois App Connects Families and Elderly Loved Ones During COVID-19 Pandemic

Social support app developed by UC faculty gaining traction as a method to stay in touch

An app developed by a University of Cincinnati professor to keep families connected with their elderly loved ones "has never been more relevant" during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CincyInno story.

The app, HiLois, was developed by Brett Harnett, assistant professor of biomedical informatics at the UC College of Medicine. 

"HiLois is a private social support app that lets users share photos, send messages and challenge mom or grandma with brain teasers — almost like a social media platform for grandparents," CincyInno reporter Stephanie Vermillion wrote. "Harnett launched the app in 2018 after his Florida-based mother developed Alzheimer’s. He hoped HiLois could help his family stay connected, and keep his mother’s memory fresh enough to remember her kids and grandkids."

hilois logo

According to the HiLois website, HiLois is designed for and centered around a family member (VIP) who may feel disconnected from the rest of the family. Often the VIP is uncomfortable with smart phones, tablets, and computers. They may have other challenges, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, making it difficult to use these types of devices. 

Families provide devices for HiLois, but Harnett told CincyInno several facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living communities, have considered getting shared devices for residents. 

HiLois began as a startup in the UC 1819 Innovation Hub's Venture Lab accelerator, and remains headquartered at 1819.  

“The Innovation Hub is helping us make money under a grant mechanism,” Harnett told CincyInno. “If you have enough users to create critical mass, then there are multiple ways to make money from that — but we’re not there yet.”

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