Changing Patient Behavior Through Technology

From addressing addiction to overcoming obesity, providers are engaging patients more than ever to help them change their behaviors for better health. Technology tools are an enabler, unlocking a range of solutions for care teams and patients.  With simple texting, patient portals, activity trackers, and connected medical devices, the healthcare industry is taking aim at improving patient behavior to prevent illness and re-admissions, control or reverse chronic conditions, or direct patients to appropriate treatment before their health spirals out of control.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone today, according to the Pew Research Center. Healthcare systems are capitalizing on the widespread use of such devices to effect behavior change.   At the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, with more than 59,000 employees in 70 health system sites in Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Iowa, texting has played a key role in positive outcomes in the health system's smoking cessation program.

It is clear that text messaging and mobile applications support smoking cessation, and there have been a couple of large systematic reviews that have shown that," says Michael Burke, EdD, assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and program coordinator of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.   "Technology is more scalable, may add to the face-to-face aspect of smoking cessation programs, and it may play a role in filling the gaps which frequently occur between a person's being advised to stop smoking and them connecting with either medication and/or counseling that will increase the likelihood that they'll succeed in stopping smoking," Burke says.    cornerstone of Mayo's digital smoking cessation efforts is a website, becomeanx.org, operated by the Truth Initiative, a national public health organization formed after the 1998 master settlement agreement between the tobacco industry and the attorneys general of 46 states. The organization developed the program working in partnership with Mayo.

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This article by Scott Mace originally appeared in the January/February issue of HealthLeaders Magazine.