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Behavioral Science Integrations Changing the Game in Digital Patient Care

May 05, 2021

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By Monstarlab

Part of our Health & Life Science Series

Technology has always played an important role in healthcare. From the very first computerised physician ordering system in the 70s to Blockchain technology and Robotics Process Automation today, technology holds the key to transform our healthcare system. This is particularly true when it comes to behavioral science. Infiltrating both mobile and clinical patient care, behavioral science integrations are making a difference in the novel patient experience and modernising core technologies.

This article explores:

  • The role of behavioral science in healthcare
  • Promising trends in digital patient care 
  • Noteworthy examples of behavioral technology applications

Gamification & Competition

In behavioral science, it is common knowledge that people are inherently attracted towards winning [1]. The educational sector was among the first to recognise this and maximise similar behavioral science principles in getting to their goalposts. Witnessing this, as well as the continuous emergence of gamification, other industries are now starting to catch on – including healthcare. 

Healthcare providers, with the help of behavioral economists, have developed health gamification technologies that incentivise good health practices. Techniques such as 

  • targeted diet programs
  • competitive fitness maintenance schemes
  • rewarded consistent medication
  • online support groups for smoking and drug rehabilitation

are becoming popular and significantly motivate behavior modifications with varying success. Not only do these strategies improve patient experiences, they also make it significantly easier and more interesting for health institutions too – optimising data collection, patient monitoring, and service speeds [2].

A few notable examples of gamified healthcare technologies are Mango Health – a smartphone application that tracks, reminds, and rewards punctual medication intake, and  Vivofit Jr., a mobile app that encourages and incentivises proper sleep, recommended activities, and good healthcare practices in pediatrics. 

Virtual Reality

According to the Uncertainty Reduction Theory, people are more inclined to engage more in interactions and processes when they are more certain of the process as well as the outcomes [3]. This concept also transcends through healthcare. When patients are more aware and are able to visualise procedures and outcomes, they are more likely to proceed. The same goes for practitioners. Combining this inclination with the fact that interactive environments are also known to be more attractive and conducive for faster recovery speeds, it makes sense for healthcare institutions to seek the technology that maximises both concepts – Virtual Reality.

Virtual Reality (VR) is stepping up patient care and medical practice with its simulations. With surgery walkthroughs for patients, educational and practical simulated operations for practitioners, virtual therapy and rehabilitation, and even virtual consultations and conferences, this technology has been leveraging the patient and physician experiences since its medical adaptation [4 & 5].

Some of the successful models for VR in health are the GestureTek Health’s VR exercise programs that enable patients to safely interact with engaging virtual surroundings and RCSI Medical Training Sim’s simulations for cost- and risk-free physician training.

Collaborative Digital Care

“Community-based health care is an essential part of primary care at all times…”
– World Health Organization (2020)

It is widely recognised, both in the medical and behavioral science fields, that communities in health and patient care are indispensable. Several studies accredit improvements in recovery speed and mental well-being of patients to communities where collaborative care is key [6 & 7]. The industry, upon discovering this, is aligning its efforts and promoting community care in a more modern fashion – thus, the dawn of collaborative digital care.

Applications like the Goochland County Community Care App based in the USA, are revolutionising patient monitoring and assistance by allowing third-parties (persons and other institutions alike) to track, engage, and participate in digital patient care – creating a more supportive, holistic, and personal program for users by developing a digital culture and capability.

Visual Reporting and Mobile Medical Photography

Back in the 80s, bulky hospital equipment and long queues to use them were a lot more tolerable because of the relatively slower pace of the analogue age and lack of choices. However, in the rapidly developing digital age that domesticated an on-the-go-generation, traditional medical photography and basic consultations are no longer worth the wait [8].  

Intuitively, the healthcare industry has forged a way around time-consuming appointments. With more patients needing access to quick and convenient consultations, pioneers in the business have created and are promoting virtual consultations and DIY medical photography with innovative apps. With timely innovations of applications like MDLive (an online non-emergency consultation app) and Rx Photo (a guided mobile medical photography app), it’s no wonder why mobile’s taking the medical world by storm.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding patient behaviors and thought processes is key to successfully creating grounded, engaging, and overall relevant services
  • Community engagement, in-depth patient communication and guidance, and fun-factors are not only impact consumer experience, but also that of providers 

Endnotes

[1] AJMC, “The Gamification of Healthcare: Emergence of the Digital Practitioner?”, 2019
[2] Digital Commerce 360, “Modernizing patient access through digital engagement”, 2019
[3] Bartleby Research, “Uncertainty Reduction Theory Of Health Communication”, 2020
[4] The Medical Futurist, “5 Ways Medical Virtual Reality Is Already Changing Healthcare”, 2020
[5] Virtualise, “Virtual Reality in Healthcare”, 2020
[6] Health Science Journal, “The Contribution of Family in the Care of Patients in the hospital”, 2020
[7] JMIR Publications, “Using Patient and Family Engagement Strategies to Improve Outcomes of Health Information Technology Initiatives: Scoping Review”, 2019
[8] Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, “Millennials and Healthcare Benefits”, 2018

Other references:

The Medical Futurist, “The Top 15 Examples of Gamification in Healthcare”, 2017

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