Psychiatrists are trying to use smartphone technology as an innovative tool in the assessment and treatment of schizophrenia and other serious mental illness.
Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder that makes it difficult to distinguish between real and unreal experience, think logically, have normal emotional responses, and behave normally in social situations.
Dror Ben-Zeev - an assistant professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School and director of the Thresholds-Dartmouth Research Centre in Chicago - and his colleagues evaluated a range of approaches, including the use of mobile phones to gather information about patients' symptoms, moods, and medication use.
The phones could then be used to deliver real-time, real-world interventions, such as prompts to take medication or engage in healthy behaviours like diet, exercise, or stress-reducing activities.
Ben-Zeev presented a set of four papers related to this subject, co-authored by a series of international colleagues. The papers are geared toward the increasing numbers of researchers who are leveraging smartphones and cellphones to provide mental health services.
Him and his associates recently conducted a survey of 1,600 Chicago individuals under treatment for serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.
"We showed that 70 percent of the people had cellphones and used them for calling, texting, and for accessing the Internet," he said.
"It's not quite up to the 94 percent of people in the US overall but I think that these results are going to be very surprising to many who expect much less from people with serious mental illness," he added.
The papers were presented for a special issue of the Schizophrenia Bulletin, and are now available online with print publication set for spring 2012.