Middle-schoolers can have a reputation for being self-involved, social media-obsessed tweens, but six Kentucky middle-schoolers are bucking that trend and showing that tech-savviness can yield impressive and useful results. These seventh graders recently developed Pharm Alarm, a prize-winning app that helps patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia remember to take their medications, and alerts family members or doctors when they don’t. Inspired by one of the team member’s grandfather’s battle with Alzheimer’s during which he struggled to remember to take his pills, the Meyzeek Middle School students were one of eight teams to win the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, winning $20,000 to support their school’s STEM learning, and earning the opportunity to work with MIT coding experts to bring their app to the public.
Pharm Alarm features a pill log with boxes to “check off” and a compliance graph for doctors to track how well patients are following their medication orders. The key element to the app, however, is a calling mechanism: if the medication is not taken, a pre-recorded phone message goes out to three emergency contacts. If none of the contacts respond, the patient’s doctor is contacted. The middle-schoolers worked with a mentor teacher to work out the details of their app, including how patients, their families, and their doctors could best benefit with an app like this. Elli Tilford, who says the app is a tribute to her grandfather, recalled how stressful her grandfather’s situation was, especially since her family lived in a different state from him and considering how trying it can be for patients who are suffering from diseases that acutely affect memory to try and remember to take their pills (or if they had already taken them). Clearly, this app resonated with Verizon and now we’ll all benefit. After these enterprising young women work with MIT to code the app, Pharm Alarm is scheduled to be available for download on Google Play in June.
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