09:30 AM

Set It So You Don’t Forget It

Tetra Alarm app makes scheduling life easier for people of all abilities.

Think about the simple act of setting an alarm on your phone. On a smartphone, you might have to dial, or slide the numbers up and down, which can demand that you move your fingers with precision. With the steps involved, many people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) often have a tough time with the built-in alarm functions of a smartphone. Unfortunately, the app versions haven’t been much better. Designed for people with full manual ability, many of them are difficult to use for someone with limited dexterity.

Enter Tetra Alarm, a new app available for free in Google Play, the online marketplace for Android apps. It is set up so you just need to select a box corresponding to a particular time. Tetra Alarm is not only a useful tool for people with SCI, but also for people who have other injuries or chronic illnesses that have affected their memory and cognitive function.

“A lot of our patients who have brain injuries or multiple sclerosis have trouble remembering to do things on a certain schedule. We developed Tetra Alarm to make it easy for them to schedule recurring reminders within one app,” says Adina Bradshaw, MS, CCC-SLP, ATP, a speech-language pathologist at Shepherd Center.

“For example, our patients who have spinal cord injuries may have to do a weight shift every 30 minutes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m,” she adds. “To do that on a typical alarm, you would have to set 24 separate alarms so it will go off every half hour. Tetra Alarm allows you to set it once, and it will continually go off every half hour. It will stop at 8 p.m., and then the next morning it will automatically start again at 8 a.m.”

Bradshaw teamed with Leah Barid, OTR/L, ATP, a Shepherd Center occupational therapist, to design the app. Software engineer Scott Bradshaw of Chillaxing Software developed the app. Funding to develop Tetra Alarm was provide by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC) a collaboration between Shepherd Center and Georgia Tech, funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The Tetra Alarm project represents a unique opportunity to leverage the frontline clinical knowledge of Shepherd's therapy staff to identify a patient need and to design/implement a solution," says John Morris, Ph.D., the director of the Wireless RERC's App Factory project. "Adina and Leah have decades of cumulative knowledge in the rehabilitation and assistive technology fields. Their expertise is critical to the success of this project."

Another feature of Tetra Alarm is its ability to use multiple types of alerts, as well as remind the user why the alarm is going off in the first place. Alerts can be provided via text, vibration or a user-selected sound, much like other similar apps.

But Tetra Alarm has a bonus feature.

“A lot of people will have an alarm going off, but then can’t remember why it’s doing that,” Bradshaw says. “Tetra Alarm allows you to record the reason for the alarm with your own voice.”

One of the main benefits of Tetra Alarm is that it allows for more independent living.

“Tetra Alarm can allows users to manage their medications,” Barid says. “It can remind them to drink water. It can remind them to shift their weight, perform bladder care, anything that needs to be done at regularly scheduled intervals. They can easily program the alarm without having to have someone else remind them. This allows for privacy.”

Thus far, the buzz on Tetra Alarm has been positive.

“User feedback has been phenomenal,” Bradshaw says. “We have had more than 100 downloads in a month. Even people who do not consider themselves tech savvy have made a point to tell us they use it in their sessions with their patients because it's so easy to use that even they can use it.”

Download Tetra Alarm here.

By David Terraso