People suffering from bipolar disorder fluctuate periodically between depressive phases, balanced state of mind and manic episodes. In order for doctors to be able to recognise the first signs at an early stage and counteract them preventively in future, doctors from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Dresden University Hospital are testing the use of a smartphone app as part of a study. For this purpose, the monitoring app "MovisensXS" is installed on the patients' smartphones to transmit phone usage data such as the number of calls made, messages sent or steps taken to the doctors, but of course no information about the content.
If the smartphone use exceeds or falls below the usual level for the patient, this is considered an alarm sign for a possibly imminent manic or depressive phase. The smartphone thus becomes an additional protective factor for the patients, as the attending physician is automatically informed in case of abnormal values and can contact his patient. There are currently still study places available for interested patients. Together with university hospitals in Berlin, Frankfurt, Bochum, Tübingen and Hamburg-Eppendorf as well as the Ruppiner Kliniken, a total of 180 patients throughout Germany are to be included in the study regarding the effectiveness of the monitoring app. The participation of the patients is designed for 21 months. Participants should be over 18 years old and have suffered more than three episodes of illness in the past five years - at least one of which was a manic episode - and be willing to use a smartphone. The app only runs on Android smartphones; if the patient does not have such a device, one will be provided free of charge. In addition, the patient will receive an allowance of €15/month to compensate for the costs of additional traffic.
The smartphone as an early warning device
Patients with bipolar disorder suffer from alternating phases of depression, balanced mood and manic states. While the depressive episode is characterised by a feeling of deep sadness, sometimes also numbness and inactivity, the manic episode leads to a feeling of elation, coupled with increased energy and sometimes risk-taking behaviour. "As a rule, many patients first become ill between the ages of 20 and 30," explains PD Dr. Severus. "In addition to drug therapy and ongoing outpatient psychotherapy, it is important for those affected to know their own stressors that can trigger the development of depression or mania. In this way, patients can take prophylactic measures themselves through their own behaviour. In addition, an intact social environment is very important - not least in order to be able to detect symptoms of bipolar disorder at an early stage." In order to detect new episodes even earlier in the future, the physicians at the University Hospital offer their patients the opportunity to participate in the study "Outpatient monitoring using smartphones in patients with bipolar disorder". The "MovisensXS" app is installed on the user's smartphone. This app continuously records the study participant's usage data and compares it with an individual profile classified in advance as normal usage for the patient. If there are abnormalities in at least two areas - for example, because the patient takes considerably more steps than usual or sends an unusually large number of messages - the attending physician receives an e-mail alerting him or her to the abnormality. For exceptional situations, patients can activate a so-called "holiday mode" that pauses the app. "The app could be a protective factor for our patients. In addition to the appointments in the clinic, a warning signal automatically generated by changed smartphone behaviour could now also offer additional safety. However, only the results of the study will show how reliably incipient depressive or manic episodes can ultimately be detected and intercepted," explains Fabrice Beier, who as the study doctor looks after the patients in the study.
The results will determine whether the early warning system for manic or depressive episodes investigated in the study has long-term potential for regular health care.
Contact for those interested in the study
University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
Dipl.-Psych. Esther Mühlbauer (Study Coordination)
Telephone: 0351 / 458 19356