Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder that is characterized by deficits in the human thought process. Individuals with the condition often face difficulties in everything from holding a job to maintaining relationships.
Now, an app that has been in the works since 2013 is undergoing testing to see if it can become a plausible tool for those with the condition. Known as Prime, the app has been a part of a trial for more than 20 months, and just one of 36 participants has dropped out thus far.
Originally, Prime was a concept developed by Danielle Schlosser, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Schlosser was also in charge of a team of researchers focused on using technology to target lesser-known symptoms of the disease.
As the app evolved, it included a few key features, one of which was a social network. The goal was to connect individuals with others who have schizophrenia, as well as individuals who are trained in assisting mental health patients.
Upon logging in to Prime, users were asked to create a profile that included their aspirations and interests. From there, Prime would address motivational deficits and generate "challenge goals" to keep patients in pursuit of their ambitions.
In 2013, the first focus group to test Prime was assembled by Schlosser's team. However, it yielded mixed results. In the end, it seemed as if users simply disliked the design of the app. Now, the team is working to make the app feel more engaging, with the help of feedback from individuals with schizophrenia.
Schlosser and her team have received funds from UCSF and the National Institute of Mental Health to further evolve Prime. Additionally, they've brought in 15 stakeholders, including those with personal connections to schizophrenia, to work out the kinks of the app.
The current trial examining Prime is looking at how frequently users log in to the app and complete their "challenge goals." Thus far, participants have logged in an average of four times per week, and 80 percent have achieved their set goals.
Schlosser's team is currently working on another app known as Prime-D, alongside Prime. Similar to the schizophrenia app, this one is geared toward individuals with depression.