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Engaging Patients and More with Help from Behavioral Economics

Healthcare providers want to find ways to engage their patients – and technology offers many new methods of getting people involved in their healthcare decisions. Practice management software gives doctors tools that can help treat their patients long-term and monitor behaviors that affect their health. But some patients are more technologically inclined than others, so offering new tools in practice management software may not be effective for everyone. So how can doctors convince these other patients to take medication on a schedule, stop smoking, or make other changes to improve their health? According to David Asch, MD, executive director of Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Innovation, behavioral economics may hold the key: “So much of what we do in everyday life is designed around an understanding of how people ought to behave,” he said in a recent interview. “But the most exciting thing about this field of behavioral economics is that we’re getting better and better and better at developing tricks to keep people engaged long-term.”

While many other industries have tapped into behavioral economics to inspire brand loyalty in consumers, healthcare has been more concerned about getting information to patients, rather than sustaining their interest in the same way as airlines or restaurants. Asch argues that healthcare needs to join that wave, through initiatives that offer patients incentives to reward healthy behaviors, or even entertain them. “If we can find ways to connect with those behavioral patterns that people already have, that’s our ticket to engagement.” Indeed, games or rewards such as points that allow the patients to interact with practice management software in new or fun ways may be enough to promote healthier behaviors or better reporting to their doctors.

In fact, patients aren’t the only ones who can be engaged with these tactics – there are ways to encourage behaviors among staff as well. One challenge that some providers, and especially larger healthcare organizations, struggle with is engaging employees in data security best practices. Practice management software is most effective, after all, when its users are invested in ensuring the data entered in the applications is accurate and updated. Harvard Business Review recently suggested that one way to increase employees’ involvement in security could be the use of “gamification tactics,” such as “rewards for the team with the strongest passwords each quarter, the fewest data-loss-prevention alerts, or highest scores on training surveys.” While these tactics may not work with everyone’s healthcare practice management, if they fit into existing office culture, physicians can reap the benefits of more engaged staff and better data in their practice management software.