Using behavioral science to create engaging digital health solutions

December 6, 2022 Lieneke Hodnett

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Using behavioral science to create engaging digital health solutions

Behavioral science is the study of human behavior and the multiple influences that impact it. In digital health, behavioral science can help us understand how people manage their health, so we can design solutions that positively influence patient behavior and drive adoption. 

We caught up with some of our consulting team here at S3 Connected Health and asked for their insight in some key areas where behavioral science can be leveraged to help create more engaging digital health solutions.

Eva Cooney, Consultant, Behavioral Science, spoke of the importance of understanding how a person will interact with a solution, and what will motivate them to continue to use it.

‘When creating a digital health solution, it’s important to remember it will be used independently by the patient. We need to predict how the patient will interact with it and use the data to tailor the intervention to support their needs at that time. It’s also critical to motivate users to keep them engaged. Principles from theories such as self-determination theory inform this, ensuring we consider autonomy, competence, and relatedness through design.’

Eva went on to say, that beyond understanding how a person manages their health, we must also examine the environmental context in which a solution is used and how their treatment fits into their lifestyle. By understanding the real barriers in a person’s life, we can design solutions that will support people to change their behavior to improve their health.

‘It’s important to consider the context in which the solution will be used. If we fail to consider how someone will access it, or what else might be going on for them, there might be a challenge for adoption. And if they don’t even download it in the first place, it doesn't matter how engaging a solution is. Early research and experience mapping can help us understand this environmental context, the touch points, and how to promote adoption.’

Julia Kolodko-Langer, PhD Consultant, Behavioral Science, explained how behavioral science can be a key tool in helping to communicate the benefits of a digital health solution to users.

‘Typically, patients undergoing treatment are required to endure costs, but they don’t perceive immediate benefits. These are things like financial costs, physical pain, or even mental effort and time. We know from behavioral science research that people care more about the here and now than about the future. When developing solutions, we need to focus on changing the outcome of this cost and benefit analysis by ensuring people perceive immediate benefits.’

Julia also highlighted the role behavioral science plays in understanding the importance of developing solutions that respond to people’s different needs.

‘Not all people use a digital health solution the same way. What works for one person, may not work for another, or what works for one person at a point in time won’t necessarily work again in the future. Digital solutions need to respond in almost real time to people's behaviors and needs.’

For more insights from Eva and Julia, watch this video and learn how behavioral science and experience mapping is used in digital health to make solutions more effective and engaging and to help drive adoption.