Understanding Human Behavior: The Key Ingredient for Continued Adoption of Digital Health Technologies
Change has long been a constant in healthcare, but it has dramatically accelerated in recent years. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer interest in using digital solutions to engage with their healthcare team was rising. Digital health is at the forefront of change in the healthcare industry. Digital disruption in healthcare has been advancing for years, with healthcare organizations trying to digitize operations and processes to maximize efficiency and reduce costs while increasing quality care. Meaningful solutions like EMRs, digital therapeutics, telehealth, AI, wearables, and blockchain are the foundation of the industry’s digital awakening. The adoption of digital health tools are crucial for delivering better remote care and improving outcomes.
When it comes to the future of healthcare, meeting and exceeding consumer preferences around digital experiences is no longer optional for competitive healthcare providers. These technologies provide the continuity of care needed to manage chronic conditions by reaching people who might otherwise feel hesitant to seek care. The novel ways health care organizations deliver interventions using digital technology results in new forms of engagement. Developers, physicians, and health systems all have a pivotal role in driving consumers’ long-term digital health technology adoption.
Adaptable Technology to Enable Health Behavior Change
Nothing is more important than our health. All of us interact with the health care system to varying degrees, and we will continue to interact with it throughout our lives. Digital technologies have rapidly penetrated many aspects of consumers’ interactions with their health care team, including how they make care decisions and interact with their health plan.
While the COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of health technology, consumers will continue to adopt digital health technologies far past the pandemic. As leaders struggle to unlock technology’s full potential in healthcare, the long-term (post-COVID) plan should focus on driving adoption of existing solutions so that consumers can become more comfortable and willing to accept connected health technologies in the future. One strategic approach involves behavior change design — an emerging discipline rooted in psychology, scientific methods, and design principles to positively influence patients’ habits, activities, and attitudes. Though research suggests that many chronic diseases are preventable with better health behavior, the structure, pace, and inequities of society make health-damaging behavior easy.
Designing products and services for chronic disease management is challenging for two reasons: First, the healthcare industry is a highly regulated, complex ecosystem, with many moving parts that rarely communicate effectively. Second, motivating a new routine is not an easy task. In a October 2020 Deloitte Insights article discussing health behavior change in healthcare, they state that making technology adaptable means creating micro-interventions tailored to individuals, employing behavioral archetypes, and leveraging accessible data and AI to personalize engagement. Designing technology that can meet the customer wherever they are–and in a way that they prefer–can be a key to behavior change. In other words, create tiny, yet buildable, habits.
The Continued Adoption of Digital Solutions
There is a clear consensus among industry leaders and researchers that technology will improve health outcomes and increase care access. Additionally, these technologies are benefitting the patient experience and increasing patient confidence. Driving adoption today will pave the way for more widespread uptake of future smart technologies. The EY surveyed over 2,000 US health care consumers and 300 US physicians in July 2020 to understand their utilization and views on health care technology. One of the survey’s findings was that on average, each additional technology consumers use increases their appetite for future technology by approximately 5%. The fact that 69% of consumers currently use two or fewer health technologies suggests this is an enormous opportunity.
The uptake of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the power of digital technologies in healthcare. Consumer adoption of digital health tools begins with a reliable roadmap that highlights shifting care team and patient perspectives and proactive outreach. Those in charge of leading organizational change must understand and apply behavioral psychology knowledge and the lessons from brain science to manage organizational change successfully.
Healthcare providers deserve technology that lets them focus on what matters: patient care. And consumers deserve technologies that are as passive as possible. The key to successful behavior change is developing habits that make change easier. However, digital is not only a channel or a medium – it’s a behavior and an expectation, and its power and impact are unmistakable.