Trial launched to evaluate app for treatment for psychosis

A team of experts from King’s College London, University of Bath and The McPin Foundation have partnered with healthtech startup Avegen Health to develop and trial a new app aimed to help patients with feelings of paranoia.

Through a clinical trial, the mobile app that aims to help users think of less distressing alternatives to paranoia, will be evaluated.

The app delivers a therapy called STOP (Successful Treatment Of Paranoia), supported by the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre. It uses gamified activities and assessments, delivered weekly over twelve weeks, to give patients the tools to overcome paranoid thoughts.

It involves assessments that invites paranoid thoughts, but then teaches people to respond in an alternative, less paranoid, and less distressing way. The researchers said a previous study using a similar treatment showed promising results.

The app will now be tested by over 250 patients and will run for 24 months, closing to recruitment in August 2024.

Professor Jenny Yiend, Chief Investigator on the STOP study and Professor of Cognitive Psychopathology at King’s IoPPN, said: “We’re really excited about the potential of the STOP app to enable us to research this approach with more people and ultimately to widen access to potential new treatments to help people manage paranoia. Paranoia can be one of the most distressing psychological experiences. It can have a significant negative impact on peoples’ relationships, careers and mental health. Through STOP, we hope to make interventions for paranoia more accessible and engaging, helping thousands more patients to access care and making it easier for clinicians to provide timely support.”

The researchers noted the study aims “to target a psychological process called biased interpretation of ambiguity,” a process that people with paranoia will automatically interpret emotionally ambiguous situations in a negative way. However, they hope that the new technology will train individuals to consider alternative ways of seeing situations, which can drive a reduction in distress-inducing paranoia symptoms.

Dr Nayan Kalnad, former medical doctor and CEO and co-founder at Avegen Health, added: “As a former medical doctor, I’m passionate about building technology that can take care beyond clinical settings and support patients to better manage their health in their day-to-day lives. So it has been a privilege to work on STOP: a tool that has immense potential to transform the quality of life of thousands of patients in the UK experiencing paranoia.

“STOP provides a blueprint for digital therapeutics to play an even bigger role in getting critical mental health care to patients, and easing pressure on doctors and the NHS.”