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Smartphone App for Personal Psychosis Care in Development

Sandra Bucci

Sandra Bucci (University of Manchester)

Psychologists at University of Manchester in the U.K. are writing a smartphone app to help early-stage psychosis patients manage their own care at home. The research and app development are led by Manchester clinical psychology lecturer Sandra Bucci, funded by a £450,000 ($US 683,400) award from the Biomedical Catalyst program of U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board.

The Active Assistance for Psychological Therapy or Actissist app is being designed for patients who experienced their first episode of psychosis, such as schizophrenia, to receive personalized cognitive behavioral therapy through their smartphones. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment strategy focusing on patients’ thoughts as the cause of their feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events. Therapy often uses a structured, Socratic approach based on an evidence-backed assumption that most emotional and behavioral reactions are learned.

Bucci says the “Actissist app has the potential to transform care for people who experience psychosis by empowering them to take ownership over their own care in the community.” The app is expected to deliver personalized cognitive behavioral therapy interventions that allow the patients to identify and manage their symptoms as part of their day-to-day lives.

The app is also expected to help reduce the expenditures for hospital-based care for people in the early stages of psychosis. A report last year from the U.K.’s Schizophrenia Commission estimates that early interventions in psychosis can save the country’s National Health Service or NHS £119 million ($US 181 million) over three years. “Currently 70 per cent of the costs of serious mental illness go on unplanned admissions to hospital,” Bucci adds, “so reducing relapse will potentially lead to huge savings for the NHS.”

The project includes a proof-of-concept test, where 24 psychosis patients will receive the Actissist app after their first episode. Their experiences with the app will be compared to those of 12 similar patients using an app designed to monitor psychosis symptoms. The assignment of treatment or symptom-monitoring app will be randomized.

Manchester psychologists already developed an app called ClinTouch for psychosis patients to report and analyze symptoms. The app comes in smartphone and SMS/text-message formats. ClinTouch was released last year after a two-year development project. The Actissist app is expected to build on the ClinTouch experience, adding therapy delivery to its functions.

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