Patient Engagement I
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Behavior Change Interventions That Don’t Work (02:37)

The three critical elements for successful behavior change intervention in the retirement domain can also apply to health care, according to Harvard economist David Laibson. “It’s automaticity, it’s active choice, it’s logistical simplification,” he says.

To strengthen the analogy, Laibson shares three interventions that haven’t worked in either domain:

  1. Education. “When we in retirement savings give people critical information about how much they need to save — the benefits of saving, the matching funds they’re going to get by saving —the lift we get from these educational interventions is basically zero,” explains Laibson, adding that he also sees lots of health studies in which people are given information, but don’t change their behavior.
  2. Information campaigns. It’s not that they never work, Laibson says. “It’s just that telling people how great it is to save, and telling people that calories are bad — these things tend not to work very much.”
  3. Peer influence. There’s a view that if you social norm something, you get big behavioral effects, but the evidence for that in the field is very thin, Laibson says. “Telling people how great everyone else’s savings are may be demotivating. In addition, peer interventions in the health domain have also been relatively weak.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Patient Engagement: Behavioral Strategies for Better Health at the University of Pennsylvania, February 25, 2016.

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