On May 5, 2021, the UCI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS) announced the eight recipients of its Pilot Studies Award, which was “designed to support exceptionally innovative and/or unconventional research projects that have the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms.” Among the 2021 ICTS Pilot Awardees is Assistant Professor of Informatics Daniel Epstein for his research into a set of apps to support patients in tapering off of psychiatric drugs.
Specifically, Epstein’s project is a feasibility study of an innovative informatics application that facilitates tapering of psychiatric medications through patient-reported outcomes and shared decision-making. “One app will be for prescribers of psychiatric medication to help them look up medication information and develop taper plans, another will be for patients to see the taper plans and log any adverse symptoms they’re experiencing,” says Epstein.
He first started exploring this topic after being approached by Alexandra Papoutsaki, a visiting researcher at UCI this year. Papoutsaki had been following an online forum, Surviving Antidepressants, where patients were self-organizing and developing their own strategies for tapering. “It’s a space where there’s a lot of active clinical research; there’s currently very little clinical guidance right now on how to develop tapering plans, and so most prescribers are looking for any support they can get,” says Epstein. “That led us to connect to an expert here at UCI, Bryan Shapiro, who has published some of the recent work on supporting tapering of psychiatric drugs, in order to design and develop technology to help in this space.”
First-year Ph.D. student Eunkyung Jo, who is being advised by Epstein, has started working on the project. The $25,000 award will help Jo lead the team as they explore an early prototype this summer.
— Shani Murray