Feasibility of popular m-health technologies for activity tracking among individuals with serious mental illness

Telemed J E Health. 2015 Mar;21(3):213-6. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2014.0105. Epub 2014 Dec 23.


Obesity prevalence is nearly double among individuals with serious mental illness (SMI), including schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder, compared with the general population. Emerging mobile health (m-health) technologies are increasingly available and offer the potential to support lifestyle interventions targeting weight loss, yet the practical feasibility of using these technologies in this high-risk group has not been established. We evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of popular m-health technologies for activity tracking among overweight and obese individuals with SMI. We provided wearable activity monitoring devices (FitBit [San Francisco, CA] Zip™ or Nike Inc. [Beaverton, OR] FuelBand) and smartphones (Apple [Cupertino, CA] iPhone(®) 4S) for accessing the smartphone application for each device to participants with SMI enrolled in a weight loss program. Feasibility of these devices was measured by the frequency of use over time. Acceptability was measured through qualitative follow-up interviews with participants. Ten participants with SMI wore the devices for a mean of 89% (standard deviation=13%) of the days in the study. Five participants wore the devices 100% of the time. Participants reported high satisfaction, stating the devices were easy to use, helpful for setting goals, motivational, and useful for self-monitoring. Several participants liked the social connectivity feature of the devices where they could see each other's progress on the smartphone application, noting that "friendly" competition increased motivation to be more physically active. This study supports using popular m-health technologies for activity tracking among individuals with SMI. These findings can inform the design of weight loss interventions targeting this vulnerable patient population.

Keywords: behavioral health; commercial telemedicine; mobile health; telemedicine; telepsychiatry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomedical Technology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Weight Reduction Programs / organization & administration