Smartphone-Based Self-Reports of Depressive Symptoms Using the Remote Monitoring Application in Psychiatry (ReMAP): Interformat Validation Study

JMIR Ment Health. 2021 Jan 12;8(1):e24333. doi: 10.2196/24333.


Background: Smartphone-based symptom monitoring has gained increased attention in psychiatric research as a cost-efficient tool for prospective and ecologically valid assessments based on participants' self-reports. However, a meaningful interpretation of smartphone-based assessments requires knowledge about their psychometric properties, especially their validity.

Objective: The goal of this study is to systematically investigate the validity of smartphone-administered assessments of self-reported affective symptoms using the Remote Monitoring Application in Psychiatry (ReMAP).

Methods: The ReMAP app was distributed to 173 adult participants of ongoing, longitudinal psychiatric phenotyping studies, including healthy control participants, as well as patients with affective disorders and anxiety disorders; the mean age of the sample was 30.14 years (SD 11.92). The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and single-item mood and sleep information were assessed via the ReMAP app and validated with non-smartphone-based BDI scores and clinician-rated depression severity using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS).

Results: We found overall high comparability between smartphone-based and non-smartphone-based BDI scores (intraclass correlation coefficient=0.921; P<.001). Smartphone-based BDI scores further correlated with non-smartphone-based HDRS ratings of depression severity in a subsample (r=0.783; P<.001; n=51). Higher agreement between smartphone-based and non-smartphone-based assessments was found among affective disorder patients as compared to healthy controls and anxiety disorder patients. Highly comparable agreement between delivery formats was found across age and gender groups. Similarly, smartphone-based single-item self-ratings of mood correlated with BDI sum scores (r=-0.538; P<.001; n=168), while smartphone-based single-item sleep duration correlated with the sleep item of the BDI (r=-0.310; P<.001; n=166).

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that smartphone-based monitoring of depressive symptoms via the ReMAP app provides valid assessments of depressive symptomatology and, therefore, represents a useful tool for prospective digital phenotyping in affective disorder patients in clinical and research applications.

Keywords: affective disorders; course of illness; depression; digital biomarkers; digital phenotyping; mobile monitoring; mobile phone; mood disorders; psychometric quality; smartphone.