How to put behavioral economics to work for more effective patient engagement

Experts from Penn Medicine, Sutter Health and VAL Health say psychological insights into decision-making processes can lead to big improvements in health habits.
By Mike Miliard
03:49 PM
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How to put behavioral economics to work for more effective patient engagement

More and more health systems are understanding the value of an emerging frontier in patient engagement: Behavioral economics.

In a HIMSS Learning Center webinar this week, Albert Chan, MD, chief of digital patient experience at Sutter Health; David Asch, MD, executive director of the Penn Medicine Center for Innovation, and Karen Horgan, co-founder of consulting firm VAL Health, will offer insights into how behavioral economics-based approaches can pay dividends for providers.

[Also: Analyzing behavioral economics and psychology are key to engaging patients to make meaningful changes]

Case in point: Sutter Health managed a six-fold increase in the rate of patients scheduling online by paying closer attention to the decision-making processes of its patients.

The webinar, "Behavioral Economics Applied: Digital Tools to Increase Patient Engagement," is scheduled for Thursday, March 22 at noon CT.

In a recent interview with Healthcare IT News, Asch explained the value of behavioral economics. While patients might be irrational in their decision-making processes, they're "irrational in highly predictable ways," he said.

That means that health systems that focus on patient psychology can more successfully leverage that knowledge to help drive engagement and healthier behaviors.

"The idea that we should educate people and help them make better decisions has only minimal effectiveness," said Asch.

Behavioral economics shows that consumers are not always rational, even when equipped useful information and handy health gadgets.

"Fitbits and pedometers don't make you walk more," said Asch. "Weight loss apps don't make you lose weight. They're just facilitators. Unless they're paired with some insight into human behavior, they're the sound of one hand clapping."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com