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      The feasibility and validity of ambulatory self-report of psychotic symptoms using a smartphone software application

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          Semi-structured interview scales for psychosis are the gold standard approach to assessing psychotic and other symptoms. However, such assessments have limitations such as recall bias, averaging, insensitivity to change and variable interrater reliability. Ambulant, real-time self-report assessment devices may hold advantages over interview measures, but it needs to be shown that the data thus collected are valid, and the collection method is acceptable, feasible and safe. We report on a monitoring system for the assessment of psychosis using smartphone technology. The primary aims were to: i) assess validity through correlations of item responses with those on widely accepted interview assessments of psychosis, and ii) examine compliance to the procedure in individuals with psychosis of varying severity.


          A total of 44 participants (acute or remitted DSM-4 schizophrenia and related disorders, and prodromal) completed 14 branching self-report items concerning key psychotic symptoms on a touch-screen mobile phone when prompted by an alarm at six pseudo-random times, each day, for one week. Face to face PANSS and CDS interviews were conducted before and after the assessment period blind to the ambulant data.


          Compliance as defined by completion of at least 33% of all possible data-points over seven days was 82%. In the 36 compliant participants, 5 items (delusions, hallucinations, suspiciousness, anxiety, hopelessness) showed moderate to strong ( rho 0.6-0.8) associations with corresponding items from interview rating scales. Four items showed no significant correlation with rating scales: each was an item based on observable behaviour. Ambulant ratings showed excellent test-retest reliability and sensitivity to change.


          Ambulatory monitoring of symptoms several times daily using smartphone software applications represents a feasible and valid way of assessing psychotic phenomena for research and clinical management purposes. Further evaluation required over longer assessment periods, in clinical trials and service settings.

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          Most cited references 25

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          The positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS) for schizophrenia.

          The variable results of positive-negative research with schizophrenics underscore the importance of well-characterized, standardized measurement techniques. We report on the development and initial standardization of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) for typological and dimensional assessment. Based on two established psychiatric rating systems, the 30-item PANSS was conceived as an operationalized, drug-sensitive instrument that provides balanced representation of positive and negative symptoms and gauges their relationship to one another and to global psychopathology. It thus constitutes four scales measuring positive and negative syndromes, their differential, and general severity of illness. Study of 101 schizophrenics found the four scales to be normally distributed and supported their reliability and stability. Positive and negative scores were inversely correlated once their common association with general psychopathology was extracted, suggesting that they represent mutually exclusive constructs. Review of five studies involving the PANSS provided evidence of its criterion-related validity with antecedent, genealogical, and concurrent measures, its predictive validity, its drug sensitivity, and its utility for both typological and dimensional assessment.
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            Mapping the onset of psychosis: the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States.

            Recognizing the prodrome of a first psychotic episode prospectively creates the opportunity of intervention, which could delay, ameliorate or even prevent onset. Valid criteria and a reliable methodology for identifying possible prodromes are needed. This paper describes an instrument, the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States (CAARMS), which has been designed for such a purpose. It has two functions: (i) to assess psychopathology thought to indicate imminent development of a first-episode psychotic disorder; and (ii) to determine if an individual meets criteria for being at ultra high risk (UHR) for onset of first psychotic disorder. This paper describes the pilot evaluation of the CAARMS. Several methodologies were used to test the CAARMS. First, CAARMS scores in a group of UHR young people and the association between CAARMS scores and the risk of transition to psychotic disorder, were analysed. Second, CAARMS scores in a UHR group were compared to a control group. To assess concurrent validity, CAARMS-defined UHR criteria were compared to the existing criteria for identifying the UHR cohort. To assess predictive validity, the CAARMS-defined UHR criteria were applied to a sample of 150 non-psychotic help-seekers and rates of onset of psychotic disorder at 6-month follow-up determined for the CAARMS-positive (i.e. met UHR criteria) group and the CAARMS-negative (i.e. did not meet UHR criteria) group. The inter-rater reliability of the CAARMS was assessed by using pairs of raters. High CAARMS score in the UHR group was significantly associated with onset of psychotic disorder. The control group had significantly lower CAARMS scores than the UHR group. The UHR criteria assessed by the CAARMS identified a similar group to the criteria measured by existing methodology. In the sample of non-psychotic help-seekers those who were CAARMS-positive were at significantly increased risk of onset of psychotic disorder compared to those who were CAARMS-negative (relative risk of 12.44 (95% CI = 1.5-103.41, p = 0.0025)). The CAARMS had good to excellent reliability. In these preliminary investigations, the CAARMS displayed good to excellent concurrent, discriminant and predictive validity and excellent inter-rater reliability. The CAARMS instrument provides a useful platform for monitoring subthreshold psychotic symptoms for worsening into full-threshold psychotic disorder.
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              A depression rating scale for schizophrenics.

              Scales for assessing depression are well developed for non-psychotic populations but have been criticized for being inappropriate for psychotic populations. As a result we have developed a new rating scale for the measurement of depression in schizophrenia based on items selected from the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and the Present State Examination. The selection was based on a three stage procedure first factor analysis then measures of internal consistency and finally face validity. Ratings of depression were made on 50 acutely ill schizophrenics meeting DSM-III criteria for schizophrenia assessed at two points in time. Our results indicate that several items from both scales form a superior instrument for measuring depression in schizophrenia. The eleven items generated a Cronbach's alpha of 0.84 at time one and 0.89 at time 2.

                Author and article information

                BMC Psychiatry
                BMC Psychiatry
                BMC Psychiatry
                BioMed Central
                17 October 2012
                : 12
                : 172
                [1 ]School of Community Based Medicine, the University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK
                [2 ]School of Psychology, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK
                [3 ]School of Psychology, The University of Wollongong, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK
                [4 ]Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
                Copyright ©2012 Palmier-Claus et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Technical Advance

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry

                schizophrenia, mobile-phone, assessment, psychosis, ambulant


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