Kyra Bobinet wants to make health sexy!

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Kyra Bobinet wants to make health sexy!

  • At the Health Technology Forum’s September meetup in San Francisco, Kyra Bobinet, MD MPH, gave a fascinating presentation entitled, “When you build It, they don’t come: The chronically low engagement in health IT, and how you can fix yours.” Using a Behavior Design approach, Kyra incorporates behavioral science into the traditional design process. Her work is based on the behavior change model developed by BJ Fogg at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. This model challenges designer’s traditional thinking about behavior change, which goes something like this:  “if we could only get users really excited about our product and increase their motivation enough, they will definitely use our new app to change their behavior!!” BJ Fogg’s model asserts that motivation is only one of three necessary components to successful behavior change. In addition to Motivation, the consumer must also have the Ability to change, and there must exist an internal or external Trigger in the environment to initiate the new behavior. Even more interesting, Kyra’s research on Mobile Health at Stanford’s Persuasive Tech Lab has found that motivation is not only insufficient to change behavior — it isn’t even the key component! Going against most common assumptions, their research found that Ability dominates Motivation!

Based on Kyra’s research, the key to a successful Design Model begins with three questions:

1. Is this for me?

2. How do I do it?

3. What value does this bring to my life?

The first question is about the consumer’s self-image — Am I the type of person to do X?

The second question addresses the fears, concerns and objections consumers may have about the product. Most designers focus on why their app will change the world, but spend little time considering why consumers may not want to use their product.

The third question is the value proposition — what makes changing this particular behavior worthwhile to the consumer?

Kyra also listed three of the most common mistakes in health IT:

1. Behavior Fantasy:  the belief that people will be perfect and use the app exactly the way the designer envisions it and compliance will be 100%!!

2. Behavior Greed:  trying to target more than one behavior — people can only successfully change one behavior at a time.

3. Behavior Narcissism:  trying to sell the product rather than focus on the user. Obvious marketing creates negative emotions in users and, consequently, avoidance of anything associated with those negative emotions, i.e., the app the designer is trying to market.

Kyra left us with a challenge:

We all know that sex sells. We also all know that changing health behaviors is hard. Typically, there are no immediate benefits, and often there are upfront costs, e.g., starting a new exercise regimen, eliminating sugary snack foods, etc.

So here’s Kyra’s challenge to designers:  How can we use technology to make health behavior change sexy?

Julie Hope Goldberg, Ph.D.

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