Study shows high engagement with digital therapy for schizophrenia spectrum disorders

By Heather Mack
03:14 pm

Pear Therapeutics, a Boston and San Francisco-based developer of digital strategies to address a broad range of mental health conditions, has released results of a study showing promising engagement with its program Thrive, which uses a smartphone app along with medication to treat patients with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder. 

Thrive offers 24/7 patient monitoring and support to patients, and provides real-time interventions targeting symptoms of schizophrenia including hallucinations and delusions. It also offers support for schizophrenia-related mood disorders.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, followed 342 patients between the age of 18 and 60 with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. The patients had been diagnosed with a disorder, admitted to a psychiatric hospital and subsequently discharged. Patients were given a research version of Thrive to see whether they would engage with it, and found that 74 percent of the patients were successfully able to use the digital therapy three to six months after discharge, and, on average, using the therapy for 82 percent of the weeks they had the mobile phone.

The researchers also found that patients engaged with the app every other day, and when engaged, they used the on-demand features more than once per day. Those who used the app for the entirety of the study used it an average of 4.3 days per week.

"Patients with schizophrenia are traditionally considered a high risk patient population and the period immediately following hospitalization is of particularly high risk.  This study debunks the concern that patients who are not clinically stable are not capable of using mobile interventions," Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev, PhD, Director of the mHealth for Mental Health Program at Dartmouth College, who led the study, said in a statement.

The study was led by Ben-Zeev, and was supported by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It builds on previous studies – the research version of Thrive has been evaluated across seven clinical studies in 504 patients. In one of those studies, Thrive showed efficacy in treating schizophrenia across a 33-patient longitudinal study. Patients demonstrated an 8 percent improvement in the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which is the primary endpoint in clinical trials for schizophrenia treatments. Participants, who were already taking antipsychotics at study start, were offered Thrive and followed for a month, and were found to be using the app an average of 5.2 times per day for 86.5 percent of the days they had the device.

"Coupled with prior results demonstrating enhanced outcomes in patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, this study suggests that Thrive could be an efficacious, long-lived therapeutic intervention,” Corey McCann, president and CEO of Pear said in a statement. We are particularly excited to have the opportunity to bring Thrive through regulatory approval and payor reimbursement.  We are committed to making this product part of the standard of care for treating serious mental illness.”


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