Smartphone app helps elderly manage mental health

A new smartphone application could improve personalized care and outcomes, according to a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The new app combined medical and psychiatric self-management care directed at patients with serious mental illness to keep them engaged in their own care and improve outcomes.

This study evaluated the effect of a smartphone-based intervention using adaptive system engineering to help patients with mental illness improve their conditions and cut costs.

"The use of mobile health interventions by adults with serious mental illness is a promising approach that has been shown to be highly feasible and acceptable," wrote lead investigator Karen L. Fortuna, PhD, of the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "These technologies are associated with many advantages compared with traditional psychosocial interventions, including the potential for individually tailored, just-in-time delivery along with wide dissemination and high population impact. Nevertheless, the process of adapting an existing psychosocial intervention to a smartphone intervention requires adaptation for a high-risk group with limited health and technology literacy."

The study enrolled 10 participants, with a median age of 55, with serious mental illnesses and other chronic health conditions and provided them with the app developed by Wellframe. The app guides users through 10 sessions over three months covering topics on stress, illness, medication adherence and substance abuse. Results showed the app had a high level of usability and satisfaction with users.

"Smartphone applications also potentially facilitate patient engagement in participatory, personalized, and preventative care,” said Fortuna. "As the healthcare industry increasingly embraces prevention and illness self-management, it is important for physicians and patients to be actively involved in designing and developing new technologies supporting these approaches."