Study: mHealth Intervention Program Helps Post-Discharge Schizophrenia Patients

Aug. 5, 2016
Engaging in a mobile health (mHealth) intervention program can help Individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders during high-risk periods after hospital discharge, according to new research in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health.

Engaging in a mobile health (mHealth) intervention program can help Individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders during high-risk periods after hospital discharge, according to new research in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health.

According to the researchers, from various prominent medical institutions across the U.S., mHealth interventions that use mobile phones as instruments for illness management are gaining popularity. Research examining mobile phone‒based mHealth programs for people with psychosis has shown that these approaches are feasible, acceptable, and clinically promising. However, most mHealth initiatives involving people with schizophrenia have spanned periods ranging from a few days to several weeks and have typically involved participants who were clinically stable, they said.

As such, the aim of this study was to evaluate the viability of extended mHealth interventions for people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders following hospital discharge. The researchers examined mHealth intervention use and demographic and clinical predictors of engagement in 342 individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders who were given the FOCUS mobile phone intervention as part of a technology-assisted relapse prevention program during the six-month high-risk period following hospitalization.

Once individuals demonstrated their proficiency using the phone and understanding the program, the assigned case manager engaged them in a shared decision-making process to identify the three most relevant treatment targets from five possible FOCUS modules: medication adherence, mood regulation, sleep, social functioning, and coping with auditory hallucinations. Once treatment targets were selected, they were input into the mobile phone and patients could use FOCUS independently. The FOCUS system prompted patients to engage in a brief assessment/intervention up to three times daily, focusing on their assigned treatment targets. In addition to pre-scheduled prompts, participants could access the treatment content for all five modules without restriction as part of the FOCUS on-demand functions. The mobile phone transmitted participant use data to a remote server regularly, the researchers noted.

On average, participants engaged with FOCUS for 82 percent of the weeks they had the mobile phone. People who used FOCUS more often continued using it over longer periods: 44 percent used the intervention over five to six months, on average for 4.3 days a week. What’s more, the majority of participants were able to use the mobile phone and FOCUS program safely and without difficulty.

The researchers concluded, “Our findings suggest that most participants (74 percent) were willing and able to use the FOCUS program successfully during this high-risk period for three to six months, which refutes the oft-stated concern that people with schizophrenia who are not clinically stable cannot engage in mHealth interventions successfully. On average, participants engaged with the mHealth program every other day. On days they engaged, they used on-demand (self-initiated) tools more than once a day.”

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