Researchers at Dartmouth College believe smartphones can be used for the assessment and treatment of schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.
Dror Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry, and 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 behaviors like diet, exercise, or stress-reducing activities.
“We are using the technology that is already in your pocket to create a completely new medium for psychotherapeutic intervention,” said Ben-Zeev. “You can have therapy with you and accessible to you whenever and wherever you have the need, potentially anywhere in the world.”
In a special issue of the Schizophrenia Bulletin, Ben-Zeev served as editor of four papers coauthored by international colleagues. The papers are geared toward the increasing numbers of researchers who are leveraging smartphones and cellphones to provide mental health services.
The articles are now available online with print publication set for spring 2012.
Ben-Zeev said he understands that some mental health practitioners may doubt the ability of the mentally ill to productively use this technology. To counter this perception, Ben-Zeev 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.
His research found that 70 percent of the people had cell phones and used them for calling, texting, and for accessing the Internet, Ben-Zeev said.
“It’s not quite up to the 94 percent of people in the U.S. 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 said.
The goal of the special issue papers, according to Ben-Zeev, is to stimulate discussion of potential opportunities where mobile technologies can enhance the study of psychotic illnesses and to encourage researchers and clinicians to be creative in employing these technologies.
Ben-Zeev and his Chicago coworkers are also partnering with community agencies and working with psychiatric rehabilitation centers and people in treatment providing clinical care to individuals in need.
“This is not your typical model,” Ben-Zeev said.
“Usually the research is conducted in an academic medical center, and then there is a transition back to real settings which may take a really long time. We are bypassing that by developing the paradigm here to begin with, getting feedback from both providers and consumers. I think that’s the strength of what we are doing.”
Source: Dartmouth College