Want your patients to change their health behavior? Think more like a social marketer and less like a health educator, says Punam Keller, Associate Dean for Innovation and Growth at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Health educators tend to say: “I know this is a good idea.” But when you start focusing on the benefits of your idea, you stop listening to what others think of it. And it’s likely they’ll stop listening, too.
Social marketers, on the other hand, tend to operate under the assumption that their audience might not like what they’re trying to say. This kind of mindset helps you become a better listener and results in “an outside-in perspective rather than an inside-out perspective,” says Keller. “I’m going to design what I will share with you based on what you tell me, rather than what I think is good for you.” She suggests asking patients, “What do you think of this? Do you like it? Do you not like it? Do you know other people who may feel differently?” It’s important to ask for insights on the barriers preventing compliance and what people are doing to address those barriers. “From a social marketing perspective, these are our golden nuggets,” says Keller. “There’s nothing more important than getting information on the barriers to compliance.”
From the NEJM Catalyst event Patient Engagement: Behavioral Strategies for Better Health at the University of Pennsylvania, February 25, 2016. Watch Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of Keller’s talk.