Combining behavioral & data sciences to optimize chronic disease management

Digital tools have become an essential part of our lives. Online calendars guide our daily routine; Waze and Google Maps plan our routes – warning us of traffic or an accident ahead; websites and apps recommend restaurants nearby; and this is just to name a few. These technologies direct and redirect us, offering optimal guidance for our individual needs.

The healthcare industry has started offering more and more digital aids to optimize remote patient monitoring and the management of chronic conditions. But providing the availability of these platforms is not enough; patients need to use them so they can be effective, and that requires behavioral change. So how can we achieve the perfect balance of useful and engaging?

Chronic disease: Mismanaged or under-managed?

Chronic disease prevalence continues to be a global challenge, claiming 75 percent of all annual deaths. While these illnesses are commonly assumed to primarily affect the elderly, chronic disease kills 15 million younger patients (30 to 69-years-old) each year. Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and cancer find themselves on a list of illnesses causing havoc across all ages and stages of life.

Individuals coping with chronic disease face many management difficulties in such areas as self-care, diet, therapies, medications, appointments and more, while also navigating their illness’ psychological and physiological effects throughout the day. With that context, it’s no surprise that treatment nonadherence rates amongst those with chronic illness sits at 50 percent, underscoring the vital need for effective engagement tools.

Enter behavioral and data science. Working behind the scenes to examine what motivates us and what we respond to best, behavioral science applied to AI-powered technologies can create personalized success companions that aid people in making small but important steps along difficult health journeys. Correct adherence and care management alleviates much of a patient suffering; applying behavioral science to chronic illness care models may significantly improve a patient’s well-being and prognosis outcomes, providing the missing key layer of support needed to spark behavior change.

Personalizing and optimizing patient journeys

The field of behavioral science helps shift focus from mind to action, understanding that suggestion can teach behavior. In medicine, behavioral scientists can apply psychosocial interventions to encourage treatment adherence, but behavioral science is certainly more complex than mere suggestion; it studies, individualizes and influences the “why” and “when” of individual engagement in or abstinence from certain behaviors. As innovators recognize gaps in care, they can better merge the study of behavior with predictive analytics technology to optimize chronic disease management.

Personalized medicine is not a novel concept. Healthcare practitioners have worked to individualize care needs throughout the history of medicine, and we have witnessed emerging predictive technologies that can analyze response to specific interventions and help identify risks. This catalyzes a possibility in further optimizing chronic condition care management.

The millions of data points collected in real-time and evaluated through artificial intelligence platforms can produce actionable recommendations and prompts to encourage behavioral change. For example, a study evaluating proactive care calls for chronic disease patients found a notable decrease in hospital admission rates among the intervention group. Such findings serve as a precursor to the benefits of evolving technology and behavior change programs, which can enable more effective disease management and increased standard of living. Behavioral and data science is beginning to play a key role in helping patients achieve their goals, feel motivated and, ultimately, live their healthiest life – with proven results.

Considerable progress has taken place over the last 50 years, producing evolutionary support in chronic disease self-management, empowering patient development of behavioral skills to navigate a variety of disease-management tasks effectively. Innovators must now rise to the challenge, offering new ways to incorporate previously undeveloped technologies into existing structures for the benefit of patients — transformation within social and behavioral research results from vast amounts of data available through mobile device technology.

Products that monitor our daily routines, including smartphones, smartwatches, and other remote monitoring devices, pave a successful path toward the application of effective disease management and understanding its value. Communication through and data collection from trusted personal devices that already accompany every facet of life carries the advantage of learning nuances in behavior and what motivates people to make significant changes to their daily routine. The powerful interpretation of what lies behind how we think and act permits us to create tools and algorithms that assist chronic disease management in familiar formats. This AI technology embedded with algorithms based on behavioral science facilitates observation of physical and emotional cues and, critically, understand the connection between a call to action and resulting behavior. In other words, emotional intelligence serves disease management through valued partnership and support, fostering optimal outcomes.

In behavioral and data science we trust!

Some level of skepticism usually accompanies advancements in medicine and technology, but combining modern technology and scientific behavior principles continues to prove successful in optimizing chronic disease management.

Patient experience related to chronic illness heavily relies on individual participation in adherence to treatment plans. Easy access to care, improved self-management and financial cost containment are essential for these patients, and offering an exciting innovation that provides automated intervention programs can significantly enrich their health journey. Innovators and practitioners are fortunate to explore new patient engagement methods in an era of incredibly advanced intelligence technology, meeting demands when they are most needed.

Digital health tools that do not account for behavioral science simply miss the point. Focusing on patients’ independence, providing support, and emphasizing empathy in motivation, equips providers with technologies that offer targeted strategies for treating chronic conditions. Elevated overall happiness lies just a few behavior adjustments away.

Photo: AlexandraFlorian, Getty Images


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