Researchers Evaluate Smartphone Intervention for Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders

A woman using her smartphone.
A woman using her smartphone.
Researchers evaluated a smartphone intervention designed to manage lingering symptoms in schizophrenia spectrum disorders.

A majority of patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders who had recently been discharged from a psychiatric hospital utilized a smartphone intervention to address lingering symptoms, according to a study in Schizophrenia Research.

The investigators conducted a prospective, 10-site, longitudinal study of 4 technology-assisted interventions within 60 days of patients leaving hospital care. They aimed to determine if, when, and how patients might make use of technological aids to manage their condition during this high-risk period.

A smartphone intervention dubbed FOCUS was made available to patients. FOCUS provides help in 5 content areas: medication, mood, social, sleep, and voices. Each login was date- and time-stamped so the researchers could distinguish between logins that had occurred during normal clinic hours and those that occurred during off-hours, and identify the pattern of use.

Over the course of 6 months, 347 out of 368 patients used FOCUS. A total of 75,447 logins were captured, 47.4% of which were self-initiated and 50.6% of which occurred during off-hours. One-quarter of the logins during off-hours were self-initiated.

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The investigators found no difference in usage per month based on race/ethnicity. Women aged >35 years who had a high school diploma or greater were most likely to use all 5 FOCUS modules during both on-hours and off-hours.

The findings demonstrate a willingness to engage with digital health tools among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. “One quarter of the total smartphone utilization was self-initiated off-hours, indicating the potential utility of this tool to extend support for patients during periods of elevated risk,” the researchers concluded.


Achtyes ED, Ben-Zeev D, Luo Z, et al. Off-hours use of a smartphone intervention to extend support for individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital. Schizophr Res. 2019;206:200-208.