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A Better Way to Manage Human Motivation

Behavior scientist Jennifer La Guardia on why “nudges” fall short and why effective care for members needs to be about more than outcomes

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Effective care needs to be about more than nudges and outcomes

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To win the battle against chronic conditions like diabetes, depression, or high blood pressure, patients need behavior science-led care between appointments.

Changing health behavior requires a hard commitment to the long game: To win important battles against chronic conditions like diabetes, depression, or high blood pressure, patients must sustain a routine of health behaviors, track health markers to manage their conditions, and incorporate new feedback and strategies that can extend months or years.

Outside of periodic visits and check-ins with providers, people have managed these challenges on their own over the years. But the emergence of new mobile apps and other digital tools, designed to improve individual health behavior, is giving patients a source of continual encouragement and interaction to support the outcomes they seek—whether it’s keeping off those pounds they worked so hard to lose, or getting significant relief from chronic pain.

These new digital care programs—supported by behavior science and human caregivers and coaches—offer “an incredible opportunity to meet people in the ‘in between,’ in the moments where important changes are happening for them,” said Jennifer La Guardia, Ph.D., director of clinical product and behavior science at Omada Health.

In a recent interview, La Guardia explained some of the science behind these new approaches, as well as the misconceptions about human motivation they must avoid to be successful.

Key takeaways
  • Changing health
    behavior depends heavily on managing a person’s motivations
  • Many of the most important behavior changes happen in between visits with caregivers
  • Incentives and “nudges” can be effective short-term, but don’t have a lasting impact on health

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