Smartphone-Based Self-Monitoring, Treatment, and Automatically Generated Data in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults With Psychiatric Disorders: Systematic Review

Sigurd Melbye, Lars Vedel Kessing, Jakob Eyvind Bardram, Maria Faurholt-Jepsen

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Abstract

Background: Psychiatric disorders often have an onset at an early age, and early identification and intervention help improve prognosis. A fine-grained, unobtrusive, and effective way to monitor symptoms and level of function could help distinguish severe psychiatric health problems from normal behavior and potentially lead to a more efficient use of clinical resources in the current health care system. The use of smartphones to monitor and treat children, adolescents, and young adults with psychiatric disorders has been widely investigated. However, no systematic review concerning smartphone-based monitoring and treatment in this population has been published. Objective: This systematic review aims at describing the following 4 features of the eligible studies: (1) monitoring features such as self-assessment and automatically generated data, (2) treatment delivered by the app, (3) adherence to self-monitoring, and (4) results of the individual studies. Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search of the PubMed, Embase, and PsycInfo databases. We searched for studies that (1) included a smartphone app to collect self-monitoring data, a smartphone app to collect automatically generated smartphone-based data, or a smartphone-based system for treatment; (2) had participants who were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders or received treatment for a psychiatric disorder, which was verified by an external clinician; (3) had participants who were younger than 25 years; and (4) were published in a peer-reviewed journal. This systematic review was reported in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The risk of bias in each individual study was systematically assessed. Results: A total of 2546 unique studies were identified through literature search; 15 of these fulfilled the criteria for inclusion. These studies covered 8 different diagnostic groups: psychosis, eating disorders, depression, autism, self-harm, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior. Smartphone-based self-monitoring was used in all but 1 study, and 11 of them reported on the participants' adherence to self-monitoring. Most studies were feasibility/pilot studies, and all studies on feasibility reported positive attitudes toward the use of smartphones for self-monitoring. In 2 studies, automatically generated data were collected. Three studies were randomized controlled trials investigating the effectiveness of smartphone-based monitoring and treatment, with 2 of these showing a positive treatment effect. In 2 randomized controlled trials, the researchers were blinded for randomization, but the participants were not blinded in any of the studies. All studies were determined to be at high risk of bias in several areas. Conclusions: Smartphones hold great potential as a modern, widely available technology platform to help diagnose, monitor, and treat psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents. However, a higher level of homogeneity and rigor among studies regarding their methodology and reporting of adherence would facilitate future reviews and meta-analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17453
JournalJ M I R Mental Health
Volume7
Issue number10
ISSN2368-7959
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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