Digital phenotyping promises to unobtrusively obtaining a continuous and objective input of symptomatology from patients’ daily lives. The prime example are bipolar disorders, as smartphone parameters directly reflect bipolar symptomatology. Empirical studies, however, have yielded inconsistent findings. We believe that three main shortcomings have to be addressed to fully leverage the potential of digital phenotyping: short assessment periods, rare outcome assessments, and an extreme fragmentation of parameters without an integrative analytical strategy.
To demonstrate how to overcome these shortcomings, we conducted frequent (biweekly) dimensional and categorical expert ratings and daily self-ratings over an extensive assessment period (12 months) in 29 patients with bipolar disorder. Digital phenotypes were monitored continuously. As an integrative analytical strategy, we used structural equation modelling to build latent psychopathological outcomes (mania, depression) and latent digital phenotype predictors (sleep, activity, communicativeness).
Combining gold-standard categorical expert ratings with dimensional self and expert ratings resulted in two latent outcomes (mania and depression) with statistically meaningful factor loadings that dynamically varied over 299 days. Latent digital phenotypes of sleep and activity were associated with same-day latent manic psychopathology, suggesting that psychopathological alterations in bipolar disorders relate to domains (latent variables of sleep and activity) and not only to specific behaviors (such as the number of declined incoming calls). The identification of latent psychopathological outcomes that dimensionally vary on a daily basis will enable to empirically determine which combination of digital phenotypes at which days prior to an upcoming episode are viable as digital prodromal predictors.