Feasibility and Acceptability of Using a Mobile Phone App for Characterizing Auditory Verbal Hallucinations in Adolescents With Early-Onset Psychosis: Exploratory Study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background: Auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) are the most frequent symptom in early-onset psychosis (EOP) and a risk factor for increased suicide attempts in adolescents. Increased knowledge of AVH characteristics can lead to better prediction of risk and precision of diagnosis and help identify individuals with AVH who need care. As 98% of Norwegian adolescents aged 12 to 16 years own a mobile phone, the use of mobile phone apps in symptom assessment and patient communication is a promising new tool. However, when introducing new technology to patients, their subjective experiences are crucial in identifying risks, further development, and potential integration into clinical care. Objective: The objective was to explore the feasibility and acceptability of a newly developed mobile phone app in adolescents with EOP by examining compliance with the app and user experiences. Indication of validity was explored by examining associations between AVH dimensions, which were correlated and analyzed. Methods: Three adolescents with EOP and active AVH were enrolled. Real-time AVH were logged on an iPod touch using the experience sampling method (ESM), for seven or more consecutive days. The app included five dimensions of AVH characteristics and was programmed with five daily notifications. Feasibility and acceptability were examined using the mean response rate of data sampling and by interviewing the participants. Validity was assessed by examining associations between the AVH dimensions using nonparametric correlation analysis and by visual inspection of temporal fluctuations of the AVH dimensions. Results: One participant was excluded from the statistical analyses but completed the interview and was included in the examination of acceptability. The sampling period of the two participants was mean 12 (SD 6) days with overall completed sampling rate of 74% (SD 30%), indicating adequate to high compliance with the procedure. The user experiences from the interviews clustered into four categories: (1) increased awareness, (2) personal privacy, (3) design and procedure, and (4) usefulness and clinical care. One participant experienced more commenting voices during the sampling period, and all three participants had concerns regarding personal privacy when using electronic devices in symptom assessment. The AVH dimensions of content, control, and influence showed moderate to strong significant correlations with all dimensions (P<.001). Days of data sampling showed weak to moderate correlations with localization (P<.001) and influence (P=.03). Visual inspection indicated that the app was able to capture fluctuations within and across days for all AVH dimensions. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the value of including patients’ experiences in the development and pilot-testing of new technology. Based on the small sample size, the use of mobile phones with ESM seems feasible for patients with EOP, but the acceptability of using apps should be considered. Further investigation with larger samples is warranted before definitive conclusions are made.