Camden and Islington launches phone use research

Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and UCL have launched a new research programme to understand if there are links with phone usage to mental health relapse.

The new study is to take place at the Trust, looking at whether smartphone technology can be used to detect and predict relapse in people with serious mental illness.  

Participants in the Relapse Evaluation using Smartphone Technology (REST) study will install the Discovery app on their smartphone. The app gathers information about how the phone is being used eg how often it is picked up, or gestures such as swipes and taps. It does not record the content. Participants will also be asked for permission to gather specific information from their medical records.

The aim of the study, which is being run by UCL, is to discover whether the way in which someone interacts with their phone remains the same, or changes, if they start to relapse.  If it does change, this could act as an early warning sign of relapse. In the future this could help with the provision of timely support, before crisis point is reached.

REST (Relapse Evaluation using Smartphone Technology) is a new research study looking at whether or not it is possible for smartphone technology to detect and predict relapse in people suffering from a serious mental illness (SMI). 

The smartphone app being tested is called Discovery and it was developed by Mindstrong Health, an American healthcare company. The app uses digital phenotyping to better understand how human-computer interactions patterns can function as a continuous measure of brain function. 

The app will passively collect metadata (e.g., swipes, taps, relative location, and timestamps of ingoing/outgoing calls or text messages) for a year. Participants will complete short monthly assessments of memory and cognition via the app, plus a telephone assessment of relapse indicators (e.g., hospitalisation, medication non-compliance). 

Relapse events are also assessed from objective clinical data collected from different NHS sites over the follow-up period. Smartphone metadata will be used to construct digital phenotypes (biomarker patterns) to predict relapse events.