Empowering the Depressed Patient

Nothing is more antithetical to feeling empowered than depression. Energy is depleted, fear is exaggerated, hope is forgotten, stigma is everywhere, enjoyment is nowhere, and treatment is a punch line for late night TV. Where exactly are you going to find empowerment in that haystack?


Richard J. Metzner, M.D.

Clinical Professor

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA

Founder, DepressionConsultant.com

The digital world is starting to hold some answers. A growing online community of people who’ve been there and have some tips can provide comfort in privacy. Then when your digital device also tells you accurately what you need to do to start your recovery, you have the beginning of empowerment. If it also e-mails a licensed professional information on what your recovery requires, your empowerment grows even more.

Do such tools exist yet?

The answer is yes.

Medscape posted an interview on 4/13/12 with Dr. Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine, about “how technology is changing medicine, making diagnosis and treatment faster, better, and more accurate. Topol says that cutting-edge medical technology, coupled with everyday devices like smartphones and tablets, is empowering physicians and patients alike.

Topol is especially interested in patient empowerment because, he says, “the medical establishment is ultra-conservative, which is why it has resisted this digital opportunity. The only way to really take it to the public and to consumers is through their smartphones: It's their DNA, it's their social networks, it's their everything. If they are educated about the opportunity here, they can help drive this. We've already learned in the past that when patients ask their doctor about a prescription drug it has a very striking effect. What will happen when they can go with their data to their doctors and say, ‘Help me; partner with me’? That could set off a whole different way of practicing medicine in the future.”

Clinaptica™ fully agrees. The Depression Consultant app for iPad (and soon other mobile devices) empowers depressed patients to give input that can help their doctors provide them with better care. They can test themselves at home and email coded results to their doctors. Appointments can be scheduled when needed and treatment is personalized based on responses to key questions.

One of my patients told me after she first used the app with its light-up buttons and slider bar that it was “so much fun” it might have antidepressant effects of its own. If seeking contact and care in the digital world can also bring an element of enjoyment back into the lives of depressed patients, then that empowerment itself can be considered a component of recovery.




Copyright 2012, Scaled Psychiatric Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.