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How to design digital health behaviour change initiatives

Effecting digital health behaviour change is a challenging arena for pharma. Here's how and why a multidisciplinary research approach increases engagement

Over the past decade or so we’ve seen an explosion of digital health care advice, providing patients with ever expanding ways of investigating, managing and even diagnosing their own health concerns. For pharma, effecting digital health behaviour change can be a double-edged sword.

On one side, there is the potential to reach many more patients, influence their choice of treatment or medication, and help them make sense of the medical issues in their lives. On the opposite side is the complexity of human behaviour and the myriad of influencers that determine digital interaction and engagement.

There’s an app for that

The digital world changes almost daily, becoming ever more sophisticated and ‘smart’. It’s no longer enough to throw together a quiz or questionnaire, or upgrade to a flashy website design to engage patients.  

With internet access increasingly coming via mobile devices and wearables, pharma is finding new ways to effect behaviour change through medical/health apps. Wearables are increasingly varied, going far beyond the smartwatch, into clothing that monitors heart rate or breathing to insoles designed to help correct posture and balance.

The problem with apps or wearables, however, is that while it’s easy to measure how often an app is downloaded, measuring its usage is altogether trickier.  

We still don’t know much about the effectiveness of digital interventions. And while it’s accepted that there’s around an 80% loss of users of apps, a review of such interventions revealed no effect or even a negative effect in a third of users. This is despite the ability for designers to programme in a high degree of personalisation.

We’re only human

Human interaction and behaviour is complex. There are many different perspectives, including intergroup, individual and societal. We need deeper interdisciplinary evaluations of digital health interventions, taking into account aspects of behavioural and computer science, engineering, and human/computer interaction.   

The rest of this article can be read here:

28th February 2018



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