Category Archives: Apps

Exploring problematic smartphone use during pandemic

Smartphones have become people’s daily companions and an integral part of our lives and interactions with information and other people. Through mobile Internet access, smartphones allow quick access and provide up-to-date news around the globe and in the life of family and friends.  In addition to the active online interaction, one can passively observe the online behavior of others by checking their updates and depending on privacy settings, we can track when our friends are online, and whether they have read our recent messages. 

Essentially “smartphones not only satisfy our need for belonging; they also can contribute to the satisfaction of another important human need—the sense of control.” Previous research has demonstrated that smartphone use has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. While smartphones can enhance daily routines and social connection, studies has also shown that smartphone use can become problematic and negatively affect relationships, work, and mental or physical health. A more complete understanding of factors that may contribute to problematic smartphone use (PSU) could help inform efforts to prevent and manage such behavior.

To provide new insights, researchers from the University of Bochum in Germany conducted an online survey of 516 smartphone users aged 18 and over in Germany in April and May of 2021. The survey included questions to evaluate self-reported smartphone use as well as sense of control, fear of missing out, and repetitive negative thinking—three factors that the researchers hypothesized could contribute to problematic smartphone use, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Statistical analysis of the survey results found that those individuals who reported experiencing low sense of control, fear of missing out, and repetitive negative thinking,and indeed, all were associated with greater severity of problematic smartphone use.

Moderating effect of repetitive negative thinking on the connection between fear of missing out and problematic smartphone use (N = 516).

While the findings do not prove causation, the statistical analysis also suggested possible interactions between the four factors. For one, fear of missing out may be a key mechanism by which low sense of control could lead to problematic smartphone use. Meanwhile, a higher degree of repetitive negative thinking was associated with a stronger relationship between fear of missing out and problematic smartphone use.

The sample was comprised of mostly female and rather young participants; the authors suggest that the study should be replicated in more age and gender balanced samples from other countries, to ensure the results are generalizable to other populations. Furthermore, the study was conducted during the pandemic when participants’ usual daily routines may have been disrupted, possibly affecting the participants’ sense of control. Nonetheless, the findings are in line with the hypothesis that loss of control—as experienced by some during the pandemic—could boost the risk of problematic smartphone use.

Source: Brailovskaia J, Stirnberg J, Rozgonjuk D, Margraf J, Elhai JD (2021) From low sense of control to problematic smartphone use severity during Covid-19 outbreak: The mediating role of fear of missing out and the moderating role of repetitive negative thinking. PLoS ONE 16(12): e0261023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261023

Columbia University Psychiatry Develops a Mobile Depression App

A major gap in diagnosing and managing major depression is that the frontline in the recognition of depression is staffed by primary care clinicians. Since depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, busy PCPs can benefit from the latest tools and information to assist them in the assessment and treatment of patients who present with symptoms.

The app known as Columbia Psychiatry Pathways — supports and strengthens the ability of clinicians to provide critical mental health services in an outpatient setting. It was co-developed by Columbia Psychiatry faculty John Mann, MD and Ravi N. Shah, MD. in collaboration with avoMD, a next-gen clinical decision support platform, as an interactive smartphone application that provides point-of-care treatment algorithms for major depression. 

This clinical decision support tool, is available as a mobile and desktop app. It has been developed for use by psychiatrists, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical students, residents, and trainees in outpatient settings as they treat patients with major depression. The evidence-based platform updates prior depression treatment guidelines and uses algorithms that focus on faster medication adjustments with emphasis on the best-tolerated generic antidepressants. It measures symptom severity using built-in calculators based on the Columbia Depression Scale and includes screenings for bipolar disorder and suicide risk. 

The division of primary care at Columbia welcomes the Psychiatry Pathways app and highlight that ‘it is challenging to treat major depression, especially in a primary care setting, especially in a patient with comorbid conditions. A point of care app that can serve as virtual consult can help to validate a PCP’s knowledge in the best possibl care for patients.’

Sources:

Columbia Psychiatry

avoMD

Study to Evaluate Apple Devices For Identifying Early Parkinson’s Disease

Apple Watch PD App

A recent study presented at the virtual International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders 2021, demonstrated that Apple Watches and iPhones can differentiate between individuals with early, untreated Parkinson’s disease (PD) and healthy controls.

The 12-month study included 132 individuals at 17 Parkinson’s Study Group sites, 82 with PD and 50 controls. Ages of the participants were approximately the same in the PD and control groups (63.3 years vs 60.2 years, respectively), but male to female ratios differed between the groups. There were more men in the PD cohort (56% men vs 44% women) and more women in the control cohort (36% vs 64%; P =.03).

Participants with PD were untreated, were no more than 2 years out from diagnosis (mean disease duration, 10.0 ±7.3 months), and were in Hoehn and Yahr stage 1 or 2. Apple Watches and iPhones were provided to participants, all of whom underwent in-clinic assessments at baseline and at months 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12. The assessments included motor and cognitive tasks using the devices, which contained motion sensors.

The phone also contained an app that could assess verbal, cognitive, and other abilities. Participants also wore a set of inertial sensors (APDM Mobility Lab) while performing the MDS-UPDRS Part III motor examination. In addition, there were bi-weekly at-home tasks. Questions and tests on the watch assessed symptoms of mood, fatigue, cognition, and falls as well as cognitive performance involving perceptual, verbal, visual spatial, and fine motor abilities. Both the watch and iPhone were used to gauge gait, balance, and tremor.

The authors concluded that “the WATCH-PD trial is one of the first multi-center, prospective, longitudinal digital markers studies in untreated early PD patients. Preliminary analyses show that devices can differentiate between individuals with early, untreated PD and controls. Further analyses of longitudinal data may provide additional insights including the utility of wearable and mobile devices for measuring functional outcomes in clinical trials.”

Source:

J. Adams, E. Dorsey, T. Ruiz Herrero, WATCH-PD: Wearable Assessments in the Clinic and Home in Parkinson’s Disease: Baseline Analyses [Abstract 364]. Mov Disord. 2021; 36 (suppl 1). https://www.mdsabstracts.org/abstract/watch-pd-wearable-assessments-in-the-clinic-and-home-in-parkinsons-disease-baseline-analyses/. Accessed September 25, 2021.

FTC warns health apps to notify consumers impacted by data breaches

STATEMENT OF THE COMMISSION 

On Breaches by Health Apps and Other Connected Devices 

September 15, 2021 

“In recognition of the proliferation of apps and connected devices that capture sensitive health data, the Federal Trade Commission is providing this Policy Statement to offer guidance on the scope of the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule, 16 C.F.R. Part 318 (“the Rule”).1 

The FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule helps to ensure that entities who are not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) nevertheless face accountability when consumers’ sensitive health information is compromised. Under the Rule’s requirements, vendors of personal health records (“PHR”) and PHR-related entities must notify U.S. consumers and the FTC, and, in some cases, the media, if there has been a breach of unsecured identifiable health information, or face civil penalties for violations. The Rule also covers service providers to these entities.”

This new policy statement by the FTC is designed to update and clarify the agency’s 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires vendors handling health records to notify consumers if the data is accessed through a breach or other means without the individual’s authorization. This rule applies to health apps, such as those tracking fitness or menstrual cycles, which have been developed over the past decade. 

“As many Americans turn to apps and other technologies to track diseases, diagnoses, treatment, medications, fitness, fertility, sleep, mental health, diet, and other vital areas, this Rule is more important than ever,” the FTC stated and intends to enforce the new policy, with those in violation facing a financial penalty of over $43,000 per day.  

Sources:

FTC

https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements/1596364/statement_of_the_commission_on_breaches_by_health_apps_and_other_connected_devices.pdf

The Hill

https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/572485-ftc-warns-health-apps-to-notify-consumers-impacted-by-data-breaches

Engadget

https://www.engadget.com/ftc-rules-that-health-apps-must-notify-consumers-if-their-data-is-breached-114043312.html