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Despite significant advancements in healthcare technology, digital health solutions – especially those for serious mental illnesses – continue to fall short of their potential across both clinical practice and efficacy. The utility and impact of medicine, including digital medicine, hinges on relationships, trust, and engagement, particularly in the field of mental health. This paper details results from Phase 1 of a two-part study that seeks to engage people with schizophrenia, their family members, and clinicians in co-designing a digital mental health platform for use across different cultures and contexts in the United States and India.
Each site interviewed a mix of clinicians, patients, and their family members in focus groups (n = 20) of two to six participants. Open-ended questions and discussions inquired about their own smartphone use and, after a demonstration of the mindLAMP platform, specific feedback on the app's utility, design, and functionality.
Our results based on thematic analysis indicate three common themes: increased use and interest in technology during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), concerns over how data are used and shared, and a desire for concurrent human interaction to support app engagement.
People with schizophrenia, their family members, and clinicians are open to integrating technology into treatment to better understand their condition and help inform treatment. However, app engagement is dependent on technology that is complementary – not substitutive – of therapeutic care from a clinician.
Predicting and preventing relapse presents a crucial opportunity and first step to improve outcomes and reduce the care gap for persons living with schizophrenia. Using commercially available smartphones and smartwatches, technology now affords opportunities to capture real-time and longitudinal profiles of patients’ symptoms, cognition, physiology and social patterns. This novel data makes it possible to explore relationships between behaviours, physiology and symptoms, which may yield personalised relapse signals.
Smartphone Health Assessment for Relapse Prevention (SHARP), an international mental health research study supported by the Wellcome Trust, will inform the development of a scalable and sharable digital health solution to monitor personal risk of relapse. The resulting technology will be studied toward predicting and preventing relapse among individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness.
SHARP is a two-phase study with research sites in Boston, Massachusetts, and Bangalore and Bhopal, India. During phase 1, focus groups will be conducted at each study site to collect feedback on the design and features available on mindLAMP, a digital health platform. Individuals with serious mental illness will use mindLAMP for the duration of a year during phase 2.
The results of the research outlined in this protocol will guide the development of technology and digital tools to help address pervasive challenges in global mental health.
The digital tools developed as a result of this study, and participants’ experiences using them, may offer insight into opportunities to expand digital mental health resources and optimize their utilisation around the world.
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