Development and Long-Term Acceptability of ExPRESS, a Mobile Phone App to Monitor Basic Symptoms and Early Signs of Psychosis Relapse

Emily Eisner, Richard James Drake, Natalie Berry, Christine Barrowclough, Richard Emsley, Matthew Machin, Sandra Bucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Schizophrenia relapses are common, have profound, adverse consequences for patients and are costly to health services. Early signs interventions aim to use warning signs of deterioration to prevent full relapse. Such interventions show promise but could be further developed. This study addresses 2 developments: adding basic symptoms to checklists of conventional early signs and using a mobile phone app ExPRESS to aid early signs monitoring.

This study aimed to (1) design a pool of self-report items assessing basic symptoms (Basic Symptoms Checklist, BSC); (2) develop and beta test a mobile phone app (ExPRESS) for monitoring early signs, basic symptoms, and psychotic symptoms; and (3) evaluate the long-term acceptability of ExPRESS via qualitative feedback from participants in a 6-month feasibility study.

The BSC items and ExPRESS were developed and then adjusted following feedback from beta testers (n=5) with a schizophrenia diagnosis. Individuals (n=18) experiencing a relapse of schizophrenia within the past year were asked to use ExPRESS for 6 months to answer weekly questions about experiences of early signs, basic symptoms, and psychotic symptoms. At the end of follow-up, face-to-face qualitative interviews (n=16; 2 were uncontactable) explored experiences of using ExPRESS. The topic guide sought participants’ views on the following a priori themes regarding app acceptability: item content, layout, and wording; app appearance; length and frequency of assessments; worries about app use; how app use fitted with participants’ routines; and the app’s extra features. Interview transcripts were analyzed using the framework method, which allows examination of both a priori and a posteriori themes, enabling unanticipated aspects of app use experiences to be explored.

Participants’ mean age was 38 years (range 22-57 years). Responses to a priori topics indicated that long-term use of ExPRESS was acceptable; small changes for future versions of ExPRESS were suggested. A posteriori themes gave further insight into individuals’ experiences of using ExPRESS. Some reported finding it more accessible than visits from a clinician, as assessments were more frequent, more anonymous, and did not require the individual to explain their feelings in their own words. Nevertheless, barriers to app use (eg, unfamiliarity with smartphones) were also reported. Despite ExPRESS containing no overtly therapeutic components, some participants found that answering the weekly questions prompted self-reflection, which had therapeutic value for them.

This study suggests that apps are acceptable for long-term symptom monitoring by individuals with a schizophrenia diagnosis across a wide age range. If the potential benefits are understood, patients are generally willing and motivated to use a weekly symptom-monitoring app; most participants in this study were prepared to do so for more than 6 months.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11568
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number3
Early online date29 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2019


  • Mental health
  • Mobile health
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Recurrence
  • Schizophrenia
  • Telemedicine
  • mHealth; eHealth


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