Background: Smartphone apps are becoming increasingly used by service users in mental health care and research for diverse aims. However, it is well-known the high prevalence of cognitive impairment in some people suffering from severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder (BD), which impacts on their psychosocial functioning and quality of life. In this context, the main aim of this paper is to investigate through exploratory analyses the role of specific cognitive deficits in the retention, engagement, and usability of a psychoeducational smartphone app in a group of patients with BD.
Methods: 51 remitted BD patients were asked to use the app for 3 months. Baseline and 3-months follow-up clinical and usability assessments were conducted. Twenty-seven independent results from a comprehensive neurocognitive test of the same participants were retrieved separately of the 2 years before or after the use of the app. Post-hoc exploratory analyses were carried out using Spearman correlations to identify significant cognitive deficits domains influencing the usability and retention with the app.
Results: There were no statistically significant cognitive variables associated with the use, reported usability or retention with the app. Some variables associated with executive functions, verbal and visual memory correlated significantly with previous use of smartphones.
Limitations: Post-hoc analysis with a limited sample size.
Conclusion: These preliminary results suggests that patients with BD and mild cognitive deficits do not present any limitation in using mental health apps. In our case, the adoption of a user-centred design in the development process of the app could have mitigated the participants’ difficulties when using the app.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder; app; cognition; smartphone; usability.