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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Smartphones May Help Predict Relapse Risk in Schizophrenia

Shifts in the social behavior of people with schizophrenia may provide early warning signs of relapse, but effective monitoring of patients is time intensive, expensive and logistically challenging.

After a clinical trial of 61 adults with schizophrenia, a team of researchers — led by Benjamin Buck from the University of Washington School of Public Health and the Puget Sound Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System — may have found a pocket-sized way to pick up traces of social isolation.

Researchers gave smartphones to people with schizophrenia who were flagged as having an elevated risk for relapse. They remotely monitored participants’ digital social behavior for a year by way of phone call counts and duration and texting frequency. The content of calls or texts were not recorded. Trained clinicians met with participants at the start of the study and again every three months to measure the patients’ psychiatric symptoms.

“People with schizophrenia were less likely to send or receive text messages or spend time on outgoing calls in the 30-day period that preceded a psychiatric relapse,” lead author Dr. Benjamin Buck of the University of Washington School of Public Health told Reuters Health. He is a senior fellow in the School’s Department of Health Services and advanced fellow in the VA’s Health Services Research and Development Service.

The smartphones were equipped with a behavioral sensing system called CrossCheck, which collected data using the device’s microphone, call record and text messaging log. Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev developed the software. He is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UW and adjunct professor of global health at the UW Schools of Public Health and Medicine. Read more on our website.

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