Patient Engagement: Experts Address How to Really Change Behavior

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Patient Engagement: Experts Address How to Really Change Behavior


Report on the Health Technology Forum’s March 27th meet-up by Raj N. Manickam – Data Architect, Engineer and Analyst

How do you disrupt healthcare through Information Technology? In Silicon Valley, the buzz and the myriad answers you will hear today centers around Patient Engagement.  This was the topic at the March 27th meetup on ‘Designing for Behaviors in Healthcare’ organized by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Health Technology Forum.

Now, how do you ‘engage’ the patient? Everyone already knows to lead a healthy lifestyle (eat healthy, exercise, quit smoking, etc.), and plenty of startups give you cool gadgets and apps to measure constantly remind you how well you are doing. Wise folks would exhort you to take a more active and assertive role in knowing what ails you, when and where to seek care, and adhering to the plan recommended by providers (medication, checkups, preventive diagnostics, etc.).

How do we go from ‘know’ to ‘do’ and do-it-again-and-again-and…? Beyond merely wishing and dreaming of changing our behaviors, is there a better way to learn and stick with desired behaviors?

The moderator Sunil Maulik set the tone by framing the question into three parts:
> What are desirable behaviors?
> How to make a behavior into a habit?
> How can organizations and communities support individuals in developing and sustaining desirable behaviors?

Martin Entwistle, Executive Director of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation started with a perspective on what leading providers are doing in identifying patients at risk, providing them education and support that goes well beyond the ‘brick-and-mortar’ based care we are accustomed to. He clearly sees this initiative as an integral part of the move from fee-for-service to value-based-care.

Everyone has heard of Weight Watchers. Its Ex-President David Kirchhoff, shared glimpses of the research, hidden persuaders and focus on ensuring customers stay on track that led to its commercial success. He stressed the role of family/friends/co-workers/community in supporting an individual’s goal. Interesting insight on the success and longevity of Alcoholics Anonymous and their focus on how-to. He emphasized that it needs the individual *and* the environment to seed and sustain change and make it go viral.

Dr B.J. Fogg, Director, Persuasive Technology Lab. Stanford University ( sought the role of a provacateur and academic. Taking on a more broader topic of translating any behavior change into a sustainable habit, he cited extensively from his academic studies and consulting engagements. He clearly does not like the word ‘reward‘. Instead he wants us to focus on the positive emotion at the end of a successful iteration of a habit to recognize and reinforce and help sustain the behavior. To get a taste of his model and approach, read and sign up at

HTF2014banner4Started in 2009 by Pronoy Saha, Health Technology Forum promotes the intersection of health care and technology by connecting people worldwide who have common interest in making health care better, more accessible and affordable for everyone. They organize periodic meetings and organize conferences around the world on health and healthcare. Coming soon is a day-long conference on ‘Pathways to Sustainable Health’ to be held in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. To take advantage of early-bird registration discounts, hurry and sign up at

RajManickamBy Raj N. Manickam – Data Architect, Engineer and Analyst


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