A Smartphone-Based Self-management Intervention for Individuals with Bipolar Disorder (LiveWell): Protocol Development for an Expert System to Provide Adaptive User Feedback

Evan H. Goulding*, Cynthia A. Dopke, Tania Michaels, Clair R. Martin, Monika A. Khiani, Christopher Garborg, Chris Karr, Mark Begale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness that results in significant morbidity and mortality. While pharmacotherapy is the primary treatment, adjunctive psychotherapy can improve outcomes. However, access to therapy is limited. Smartphones and other technologies can increase access to therapeutic strategies that enhance self-management while simultaneously augmenting care by providing adaptive delivery of content to users as well as alerts to providers to facilitate clinical care communication. Unfortunately, while adaptive interventions are being developed and tested to improve care, information describing the components of adaptive interventions is often not published in sufficient detail to facilitate replication and improvement of these interventions. Objective: To contribute to and support the improvement and dissemination of technology-based mental health interventions, we provide a detailed description of the expert system for adaptively delivering content and facilitating clinical care communication for LiveWell, a smartphone-based self-management intervention for individuals with bipolar disorder. Methods: Information from empirically supported psychotherapies for bipolar disorder, health psychology behavior change theories, and chronic disease self-management models was combined with user-centered design data and psychiatrist feedback to guide the development of the expert system. Results: Decision points determining the timing of intervention option adaptation were selected to occur daily and weekly based on self-report data for medication adherence, sleep duration, routine, and wellness levels. These data were selected for use as the tailoring variables determining which intervention options to deliver when and to whom. Decision rules linking delivery of options and tailoring variable thresholds were developed based on existing literature regarding bipolar disorder clinical status and psychiatrist feedback. To address the need for treatment adaptation with varying clinical statuses, decision rules for a clinical status state machine were developed using self-reported wellness rating data. Clinical status from this state machine was incorporated into hierarchal decision tables that select content for delivery to users and alerts to providers. The majority of the adaptive content addresses sleep duration, medication adherence, managing signs and symptoms, building and utilizing support, and keeping a regular routine, as well as determinants underlying engagement in these target behaviors as follows: attitudes and perceptions, knowledge, support, evaluation, and planning. However, when problems with early warning signs, symptoms, and transitions to more acute clinical states are detected, the decision rules shift the adaptive content to focus on managing signs and symptoms, and engaging with psychiatric providers. Conclusions: Adaptive mental health technologies have the potential to enhance the self-management of mental health disorders. The need for individuals with bipolar disorder to engage in the management of multiple target behaviors and to address changes in clinical status highlights the importance of detailed reporting of adaptive intervention components to allow replication and improvement of adaptive mental health technologies for complex mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere32932
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Adaptive
  • Behavioral intervention technology
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • MHealth
  • Mania
  • Personalized
  • Self-management
  • Smartphone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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