Mobile Health and Behavioral Change
Dr. C. Jason Wang is leading the creation of a choice architecture called the Healthy Ideas Exchange to study behavioral change. “Patient compliance has become the best documented, but least understood, health behavior,” and requires innovative thinking. This architecture will be implemented via the Web using Smartphones and tablets (e.g., iPad). In the Exchange, users will choose hooks, a game feature they enjoy and link them to rewards when they accomplish a desired healthy behavior or adherence with a therapeutic regimen. The study team will draw lessons from the gaming world that are important to draw in users, provide enjoyment during play, and maintain customer or player loyalty, and then link them to desired health behaviors. Today, 82% of adults have a mobile device; 38% of those with mobile devices use them to go online, and 34% of adults play games on their cell phones. These numbers are higher for minorities than Whites. In the Exchange, users will also be exposed to nudges, which are aspects of the choice architecture that alter people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. For example, one can nudge people looking to lose weight by providing better mapping between choice and welfare, e.g., “”Mr. Smith, your run on the treadmill burned a pack of carrots. With the spinning exercises, you will burn a total of 5 Oreo cookies.” In the short-run, the study team will identify the hooks and nudges that are important for motivating different patient populations (e.g., by age, race, socio-economic status, resident location), and monitor how long individuals stay engage. For long-term outcomes, we will be looking at cost-savings to the healthcare system and the diffusion of this innovation. Additionally, Dr. Wang is working to improve adherence to medications in post-transplant patients, and to enhance compliance among individuals with asthma via mobile technology.
Dr. Wang’s team, in collaboration with Dr. Heidi Feldman from Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, is building a mobile app platform that can help healthcare providers, patients, social workers, and insurers track the progress of a patient’s care in real time, which would be most useful for those with complex chronic conditions.