Posts Tagged 'strategy'

SXSW feature: The secret life of behaviour change

I was fortunate enough to attend the South By SouthWest Interactive conference (colloquially ‘Southby’ or SXSW), which benefited from a health ‘track’ that focused on innovation and digital in healthcare.

At the event, I attended a number of panels and I would like to share my notes on some of the panels here. So, I want to talk about a solo piece from
Aza Raskin (@azaaza), founder of the startup Massive Health, who talked about how consideration of feedback loops can help change patient behaviour with regards to lifestyle choices and disease self-management.

Feedback loops
Raskin maintains that the secret to changing behaviour is to examine and change these feedback loops associated with health behaviour. For example, a morbidly obese person is likely to be very aware that their condition will have a serious negative impact on their health, and so dieting and exercise to reduce weight/BMI/waist circumference is very important to avoid stroke or myocardial infarction or all the diseases that obesity is a risk factor for. However, we all know that dieting and exercise are very difficult to start and even more difficult to maintain on a long-term basis.

Cake
He uses cake as a good example of a feedback loop in action:
A person sees one piece of cake and knows that they shouldn’t eat it, however if they do eat it, there is no immediate consequence (possibly other than guilt or sticky fingers). This demonstrates that people do not consider the cumulative negative effect on health that the cake contributes to, and therefore this cake is part of a long-term feedback loop with consequences way off in the future. The same with cigarettes – smokers know that a cigarette will essentially shorten their life, but those consequences are at the end of the life, not at that moment.

So, it is clear that long feedback loops do not encourage ‘good’ behaviour and, therefore, there is a need to find a way to make it easier for people to adhere to good behaviours for the duration of that feedback loop, either by creating shorter feedback loops (giving often or instant feedback to people on how well they are doing) and/or rewarding people for modifying their behaviour.

Marshmallows
To illustrate the idea of rewards for behaviour modification, Raskin described an experiment where young children were presented with a marshmallow. The children were told that they could eat the marshmallow now, however if they waited without eating the marshmallow, they would get a second marshmallow on the researcher’s return (thus the promise of two marshmallows – an exciting prospect for a 4-year-old!). Although the original study was investigating the effect of age on the development of delayed gratification, the point Raskin was making was that the children who waited rather than eating their marshmallow modified their behaviour in order to gain a benefit/reward.

Amusing video of something similar that Raskin showed:

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

I think this gives food for thought (possibly not marshmallows), as if we can apply this rhetorical theory into the programmes that we produce and find a way to make it work, this could have a great positive impact on patients lives.

Balloon animals

A quick apology to readers of this blog. I really enjoy writing here, but the past month has thrown up a number of challenges.

One of these challenges is actually finding something interesting and, importantly, new, to write about. There are so many bloggers out there that I feel I would be doing you a disservice if I wrote basically the same stuff that others have already covered.

Social media is no longer new and exciting, and in the pharmaceutical sector at least, little has changed with regards to its use, other than the fact that pharma companies know more about it than before. Especially in Europe, where regulatory guidance is a long way off; don’t get me wrong, there have been excellent examples of innovative use of social media, however all the signs show that we are ‘over the hump’ of social media hype and are now, quite rightly, looking at it as a channel to be considered and utilised in an appropriate manner as part of an integrated plan. Not so much a bursting of the social media bubble, more a slight deflation so that we can make balloon animals (to overextend my mixed metaphor for appropriate consideration and usage of social media). Essentially in 2011, it is necessary for Pharma to bring social media into the Venn diagram and start using it appropriately.

What about the rise and rise of mobile and tablet healthcare with native apps (and in my opinion this is also something that is still overhyped and not rationally used as a tactic in an integrated plan, but I expect that to continue for the moment). I think Android will play a much larger part in healthcare as a platform with some major players bringing out Androidbased tablets in 2011 (with implications in terms of enterprise, cost and accessibility).

Let’s not forget the possibilities of near-field communications (NFCs), especially now that mobile handsets are starting to integrate this technology (notably Google’s upcoming Nexus S made by Samsung, which also inexplicably has no LED indicator or SD card expansion slot). This is something that will gain momentum in 2011, with possibly some good use coming of it either late in 2011 or more likely in 2012.

Now to a topic I’ve also been banging on in this blog about recently: integration, and I think actually this will be a key theme for the focus of my commentary in 2011 – integration of digital into overall healthcare strategy. We need to be savvy that digital must fit within our offerings in an integrated manner, and that we shouldn’t get overexcited about ‘the shiny’ (be it platforms or gadgets). I expect 2011 to be the year where the ‘bedding in’ of digital occurs, where we all go back from being ‘digital strategists’ to just ‘communication strategists’, because this is where the benefits for patients, HCPs and Industry lie.

I’m excited by the prospect of 2011 in digital. Happy holidays to you all.

Paul

When is digital strategy not digital strategy?

I want to pick up a bit more on the closing remark from my DigiPharm Europe 2010 posts. If you recall, I said:

To survive in this landscape, Pharma must make inroads into developing a digital strategy – and by that I mean integrate your digital tactics into your overall strategic plan, and at the same time, generate and maintain internal buy-in by developing a corporate digital strategy that integrates digital into the fabric of your organization’s culture and operations.

Although I work on the agency side myself, this is something that I face every day – My agency is full-service, so we integrate strategy with digital as well as traditional medical communications and we employ a range of highly skilled staff to satisfy that requirement, so there can be a challenge of enlightenment with regards to the uses of digital as a means to communicate with some people internally. Its a balancing act, and there is always resistance from those who don’t see the value of these channels or those who are set in their ways, unwilling or unable to move from their comfort zones. I approach these individuals with a mix of elucidation (e.g. demystifying microblogging), training (e.g. the concept of information architecture and the process of designing and developing a web project), encouragement (setting up a LinkedIn profile is a start) and information (circulating good examples of digital communication); all mixed in with the ol’ Jacobs Charm(tm).

For Pharma, the challenge is greater, as we have to layer on the regulatory and legal aspects (not to mention the challenge made by the boundaries of geography, where regulatory jurisdiction hinders us at every step!). For Pharma marketers wanting take advantage of the rich digital opportunities out there, it can be a daunting and frustrating task. However, with a bit of perseverance and the right inclusive and encouraging approach, it is achievable even in the most conservative of companies to gain buy-in from key stakeholders.

As a strategic thinker, its important to consider digital in your corporate, franchise and brand strategy, but I want to make absolutely clear that the phrase ‘digital strategy’ is a misnomer when it comes to a communications plan. When we consider the use of digital channels or tactics, we must also remain mindful that these are tools within the communications plan to serve the strategy, and not to replace the strategy. Pharma marketers need to be very clear that using a digital tactic will achieve those strategic imperatives. We all love iPhones, gadgetry, social media, interactive games and multimedia – but we must also make sure we take a step back and think – will this suit our needs? Or will we be better off with a simple or traditional print tactic?

Still having trouble? There are loads of great agencies out there who can help. Get a recommendation, throw a stone or ask me.


About me

Hi, my name is Paul Jacobs and I write the Medigital blog, as well as being the Director, Digital Strategy at Sonic Boom, a digital and social agency. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about the digital domain in pharma and medical communications/education.
Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are my very own and do not necessarily reflect those my employer, family or pets. Twitter: @PJ_Medigital
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