Healthy Behavior Change Has Been Abandoned by Traditional Medicine

Healthy Behavior Change Has Been Abandoned by Traditional Medicine

A few weeks ago, I taught a Saturday “Executive Master’s Course” on behavior change at a major Chicago university as a visiting professor.  I included a summary of the three most used health behavior-change models in medical literature:

  • The Readiness to Change
  • Health Belief
  • Social Cognitive models  

These models and more than 70 others, make up the body of knowledge of how human behavior can be changed; with a focus on changing health behavior.  

There are literally hundreds of thousands of articles written on health behavior going back nearly a century, but behavior change as a way to improve health has been largely abandoned by traditional medicine for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that physicians have failed to see results.

After asking “Can you change patient behavior?” to hundreds of audiences comprised of people in the healthcare industry, the typical answer is a resounding “NO”.  This answer comes from doctors, nurses, therapists, managed care medical directors, hospital administrators, employee benefits executives and others… but that answer would never come from manufacturers of tobacco, soft drinks, sugar laden foods, processed foods, clothing, shoes, the latest iPhone and even pharmaceutical manufacturers!

Why Traditional Medicine Views Behavior Change Differently

What is the difference?  The healthcare industry as a whole has never really studied the science of behavior change… and if they did, they never executed on their knowledge.  But, Madison Avenue and all of the advertisers and marketing companies around the world, have.

Medicine uses the model of “ordering” change in behavior… like ordering a steak at a steakhouse.  “Give it to me rare!”; and magically it arrives. They “order” drugs and the patient is… well, just expected to take them.  They “order” people to follow a 20-page set of jargon-riddled instructions and expect them to be followed. They tell people they need to change their diet, lose weight, exercise more and… in the final 10 seconds of the office visit tell them to come back in 3 months.   Medicine never realized that you actually have to “sell” healthy behavior and make it easy to accomplish the change.

Sell Healthy Habits Like You Sell a Coke

I posit that the advertising industry and savvy manufacturers and retailers have studied the science of behavior change more than any other industry on the face of the earth.  They actually understand how human psychology works and as a result sell more and earn more profit.

The first company to truly lead this was probably Coca-Cola. More than a century ago, the people at Coke understood that people needed an excuse or “motive” to purchase their product.  They also knew that people needed to always have to ability to purchase their product… on every corner and at a price they could afford. And they recognized that people needed to be cued to purchase it.

They put their iconic bottle shape on every surface imaginable – drink glasses, billboards, the sides of buildings, baseball stadiums, subways, busses, magazines, newspapers, soda fountains, gas stations, and beverage dispensers – on every continent on the face of the earth.  They also associated the image of Coke with wonderful feelings such as fun, family, excitement, graduations, sporting events, and let’s not forget polar bears!

They followed a strategically focused approach to build their brand and change behavior with such mechanisms as contracting for Coke to be the “exclusive” soft drink of airports, schools, colleges, restaurants, even Delta Airlines!  What followed is the most recognized brand on the face of the earth and a phenomenally successful line of products. They changed the behavior of billions of people for more than a century with a unhealthy, sugary drink that has no nutritional value!

Obviously other companies have followed the science of behavior change and have done even better. Think how Apple and Facebook have used “social” methods to change behavior.  And how simple is it to order merchandise from Amazon with Alexa and one click.

Almost every consumer product is influenced by some form of psychological conditioning by the manufacturer, trade group, merchant and marketing company… except health.

Why is this Important?

ChipRewards was conceived and birthed on a consumer platform.  It was built on a foundation of human psychology. The ChipRewards platform is specifically designed to:

change behavior  

Our platform uses all of the major behavior change theories and models to motivate people to change, to give them the exact steps in change and to cue change.  And as its name implies, ChipRewards actually rewards positive behavior!

Rewarding Positive Behavior

The ChipRewards’ platform has been used to change the health behavior for literally millions of healthcare plan members in such varied ways as:

  • completing a health risk assessment
  • receiving immunizations
  • having mammograms and other cancer screening
  • improving adherence to a therapeutic plan
  • improving overall diabetes outcomes

The ChipRewards platform is always running – 24 hours per day, seven days per week. It can digest massive amounts of data from claims, pharmacy, health risk assessments, lab, you name it and can be used to customize client-specific goals like directing people to the “formulary” drug, contracted hospital, improve blood pressure control, reduce a A1c in a diabetic patient… the list is literally infinite.  

Our platform can educate, convince, simplify, encourage, trigger, influence and ultimately improve outcomes, both clinical and financial outcomes, in ways employers and health care plans have only imagined in the past.  

Never in the history of the human race have we needed to focus on how people can take charge of their health more than today… we simply cannot afford constantly rising health care costs.  

Healthy behavior can be attained! Talk to us about how to use the ChipRewards platform to meet your goals!

Josh Smithey

VP of Products and Sales Enablement - ChipRewards