Designing Consumer Health Technologies for the Treatment of Patients With Depression: A Health Practitioner's Perspective

Interact J Med Res. 2014 Jan 10;3(1):e2. doi: 10.2196/ijmr.2368.


Background: The consumer health technologies used by patients on a daily basis can be effectively leveraged to assist them in the treatment of depression. However, because treatment for depression is a collaborative endeavor, it is important to understand health practitioners' perspectives on the benefits, drawbacks, and design of such technologies.

Objective: The objective of this research was to understand how patients and health practitioners can effectively and successfully influence the design of consumer health treatment technologies for treating patients with depression.

Methods: A group of 10 health practitioners participated in individual semistructured contextual interviews at their offices. Health practitioners rated an a priori identified list of depression indicators using a 7-point Likert scale and generated a list of depression indicators. Finally, health practitioners were asked to rate the perceived usefulness of an a priori identified list of depression treatment technologies using a 7-point Likert scale.

Results: Of the 10 health practitioners interviewed, 5 (50%) were mental health practitioners, 3 (30%) nurses, and 2 (20%) general practitioners. A total of 29 unique depression indicators were generated by the health practitioners. These indicators were grouped into 5 high-level categories that were identified by the research team and 2 clinical experts: (1) daily and social functioning, (2) medication, (3) nutrition and physical activity, (4) demographics and environment, and (5) suicidal thoughts. These indicators represent opportunities for designing technologies to support health practitioners who treat patients with depression. The interviews revealed nuances of the different health practitioners' clinical practices and also barriers to using technology to guide the treatment of depression. These barriers included (1) technology that did not fit within the current practice or work infrastructure, (2) technology that would not benefit the current treatment process, (3) patients forgetting to use the technology, and (4) patients not being able to afford the technology.

Conclusions: In order to be successful in the treatment of depression, consumer health treatment technologies must address health practitioners' technology concerns early on in the design phase, account for the various types of health practitioners, treatment methods, and clinical practices, and also strive to seamlessly integrate traditional and nontraditional depression indicators within various health practitioners' clinical practices.

Keywords: depression; health care providers; technology; user-computer interface.