Digital Nudges in healthcare - still to be explored

Thomas Brenzikofer
Thomas Brenzikofer


Panel discussion

Panel discussion


The bad news: If anyone expected that Behavioral Sciences will soon lead to a nudge strategy to solve every one of Healthcare’s problems then they were disappointed at the DayOne Experts Event, taking place on April 11. Academia and industry are still at an early stage in understanding and applying techniques to change behaviors.

The good news: developing digital nudges especially with a more holistic approach to developing and sharing experience around behavioral change holds a lot of promise. The flow of health apps to the app graveyard might not be quite so fast in the future!

In his introductory presentation, Rui Mata from the University of Basel, showed that behavioral change is a key component in a significant share of the global disease burden and we have a diverse and interesting range of tools that could help.  There are many cases that show an impact in the short term or in controlled scenarios. We don’t however yet know what really works, for whom and for how long. Rui emphasized that as we start to have the right digital tools in place, it will take less time and effort to experiment and learn more from experience.

Maurice Codourey then presented a real-world example of children’s engagement in a hospital setting that showed nudges have been around for a long time and are a part of any change.  Mauricio Suarez and Juan Rodríguez then shared how MSD engages in Design Thinking and Open Innovation as the organization knows they must try and create more patient centric and health outcomes driven solutions in the future.

We then had two further cases from Andreas Filler and Michelle Heppler from Pathmate Technologies and Balazs Banfai of Soladis showing how information and feedback can help motivate when provided in the right context. They also highlighted that they can learn, much faster than traditional tools, what works and what doesn’t in the real world.

The topic of ethics in behavioral change was brought up in the panel discussion led by DayOne Core Team member Frank Kumli where Effy Vayena from ETH Zurich joined.

Payors, providers and pharma have an incentive to nudge people and patients to improve their own outcomes (and stakeholder profits) but this shouldn’t be at the cost of transparency to the patients and certainly not their freewill.

The panel concluded with emphasizing the need to involve multiple stakeholders in development of nudges and also to take advantage of digital tools and an improving theoretical basis to improve and speed up feedback loops about what works and what doesn’t.

The take-aways from the evening:

  • A large share of the global disease burden is a result of lifestyle, therefore behavioral change will be a key part of keeping the healthcare system sustainable.
  • Technologies are evolving fast and offering opportunities to interact with patients anytime, anywhere. By designing digital nudges innovators can get quicker wins and faster learnings than before.
  • The field of Behavioral Economics is still in its infancy:
    • The design of a behavioral Economics toolbox and language to classify interventions is just getting started
    • There is Initial evidence that interventions can work on some people for some time, but sustainable change remains hard.
    • There is a need to validate the effect of the interventions and work out what is the best intervention for each person
  • A sine qua non rule for behavioral change in healthcare is that the user has to be on board. Nudges have to be done with respect of the patient and transparent.
  • Designing and implementing Behavioral change interventions requires a truly multidisciplinary approach, therefore collaboration will be key to success.

This fascinating topic nudged some 200 people to join the event, to learn more, discuss and network on a lively evening in Basel’s Halle 7. The presentations are below and the DayOne team looks forward to welcoming you at one of our future events or in one of our projects.


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