Blog Post: Eli Beer Shows Technology and Chutzpah Can Save Lives

There are times when the advantages of mobile technology are so great, it can bridge the gap between governments, religions, ethnic groups and general human decency. These ideas are so simple, yet challenging because of the war of establishment and entrenchment. Innovators have to have the fortitude to take on all of those obstacles because it’s the right thing to do.

For times like that, we should applaud people like Eli Beer and what his organization United Hatzalah (which means “rescue” in Hebrew).

There have been many amazing articles written about Beer and UH over the past year. CNN did a very comprehensive overview, but I was introduced to his story from a TEDMED talk done in Washington earlier this year.

The concept is simple: in cities all across the globe it can sometimes take ambulances too long to reach people in need. The patient could be in a car accident, choking, having a heart attack, or just a senior citizen who fell. When that time comes, instead of waiting for a vehicle to come across town, there are thousands of able people who could come much sooner and save lives.

Today, UH has over 2,000 volunteers in Israel alone that helped in over 42,000 life-threatening situations in 2012 alone. Their response time: less than 3 minutes.

We go, we don’t charge and we don’t require patients to have insurance,” Beer told CNN. “We don’t ask questions about ethnicity or religion — it’s not about saving Jews or Muslims, it’s about saving people.”

A few years after he started UH, a Muslim met with Beer sharing a story of watching his father die of a heart attack with no way of helping. It was then UH branched out to East Jerusalem enabling opposite sides of the West Bank to save lives..

“I saw so much tragedy, so much hate,” he said in his TEDMED talk. “We started hand-in-hand. Jews were saving Arabs, Arabs were saving Jews. Something special happened.”

The story continues. Years later, when Beer’s own father was suffering a heart attack, one of the first volunteers on site was one of the first Muslim volunteers UH trained.

Using a mobile software application called NowForce, which was also build in Israel, volunteers can use their mobile device to be alerted of an emergency based on their current GPS location. Again, it’s an idea that is so simple and valuable, but it was not originally received that way.

Ambulatory services saw the organization, which does not charge for this service or take insurance, as a threat to their business. Over time, stances have softened and UH is a valuable partner to over 100 ambulance companies.

The recipe for success is similar to tech start ups: useful technology, combined with passionate people, can change lives. It’s amazing to hear the story, and hopefully will inspire more just like it.

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