Unlike any other sector, the challenges faced by healthcare brands and organisations are driven by human behaviour. From disease prevention and diagnosis to treatment adoption and maintenance –improving patient outcomes is as much a behavioural consideration as it is a clinical one.
Given that an estimated 80% of all heart disease, diabetes and stroke deaths and 40% of all cancer deaths are associated with behavioural risk factors, effective behaviour change strategies represent a significant opportunity for healthcare organisations to further improve patient outcomes.
Over recent years we have seen the rapid adoption of behavioural science within the healthcare industry, mainly through the application of Behavioural Economics, cognitive biases and ‘nudge’ techniques to a wide range of perennial healthcare issues:
- Treatment adherence
- Appointment DNAs
- Vaccination hesitancy
- Increasing generic prescribing
- Reducing antibiotic prescribing.
Behavioural Economics focusses on how human beings actually behave, as opposed to how we are assumed to behave. The central insight from this research is how often we make irrational decisions which lead to behaviours that are not in our best interests.
This is due to a range of mental short-cuts we rely on when making quick decisions in complex situations. Whilst these short-cuts – or ‘heuristics’ – can be useful, they can also lead to predictable errors in our thinking or ‘cognitive biases’.
Nudges are small changes to the context – or ‘choice architecture’ in which a decision is made that increases the likelihood that a particular option will be chosen. These techniques have been used in a variety of settings to help healthcare professionals and patients to overcome their cognitive biases.
However, as the application of behavioural science in healthcare matures, healthcare organisations are starting to look for ways of building on the Nudge-based approach to generate more sustainable impacts through:
- Holistic behavioural strategies and journeys as well as tactical nudge-type interventions.
- Understanding lived experience as well quantitative survey data.
- Bespoke, evidence-based interventions as opposed to generic, off-the-shelf examples.
- Near real-time personalisation, rather than relying on static, historical data.
At BCW WHY we’re focussed on unlocking this potential for our clients through the dual lenses of Empathy and Evidence. Our Evidence lens respects the role and rigour of scientific method, whilst our Empathy lens keeps us focused on the importance of lived experience and context.
In practice this means working with healthcare organisations on:
- Remote and digital ethnography to understand behaviour in the context of people’s real lives.
- Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to measure tangible behavioural impacts.
- Co-designing communications, services and products directly with patient communities.
- Predictive analytics and AI platforms to pre-empt behaviours and deploy personalised interventions.
- Patient pathways and services designed with behavioural science principles at every stage.
- Behavioural Science training and Behavioural Sprint workshop to accelerate behavioural approaches for client teams.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be exploring these themes in more detail as part of our ‘From Nudge to Move’ Thought Leadership series which is focussed on how we go beyond nudging audiences to authentically Moving People, with a specific focus on key healthcare challenges such as:
- Improving treatment adherence
- Employee recruitment and retention
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Making patient-centricity work
We’re kicking off with the launch of MOVE – our behaviour change framework designed to help clients design, deliver and evaluate evidence-based interventions. Email [email protected] so sign up to receive this content directly into your inbox.
In the meantime, if you’re facing a challenge that would benefit from a behavioural science lens, please get in touch for a free 60-minute consultation with one of our experts. Simply email [email protected]
with a brief overview and we’ll be in touch to book in your session.