Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are we persuasive enough?

Joseph Kvedar, M.D. at the Center for Connected Health wrote recently about embedding the basic tools of persuasion into automated interchanges for better health. Messages that take advantage of reciprocation, consistency with personal commitments, expert authority, access to scarce resources, liking the source, and social norming are more likely to be persuasive. Marketers and sales people have long known this. I also agree with him that increased demand for health care as will require some sort of efficiency gains to maintain any semblance of access and equity.

In fact, the gains had by engaging patients in their own care, combined with the efficiencies of automation, are the "secret sauce" behind the success of the Vermedx Diabetes Information System in reducing the need for hospital and Emergency Room care as well as in reducing total costs of care.

His column got me thinking about our own automated messages within the Vermedx system. The letters to patients clearly take advantage of personal commitments and expert authority, but they could make better use of social norming and access to scarce resources. However, we take advantage or another technique that wasn't mentioned: specificity. Vermedx messages include information that is timely, specific, and actionable. Rather than say "You ought to get blood tests regularly," Vermedx tells the patient exactly when the test was due and what to do about it now.

We're going to be working on better ways to incorporate all the positive aspects of the Psychology of Persuasion (or Behavioral Economics, if you prefer) to make even greater gains in health outcomes.

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