Practical Apps 13: Changing Behaviour (Part Two)
Dr. Andrew Chou
Dr. Andrew Chou is a practicing family physician in Toronto. He completed his medical degree and residency at the University of Toronto. During his training, he became interested in the use of technology in medicine. He currently works in a community-based family practice where technology is used to enhance patient care and improve clinic efficiency.
Way back in 2013, when there were only 40,000 health-related apps compared to the current count of more than 165,000, BJ Fogg, PhD, expressed concern that behaviour change apps didn’t often work.
According to the June 27, 2013 Medscape , Fogg says it isn’t technology that’s holding back the design of apps that could help patients – particularly those with chronic conditions – adopt healthy behaviours. “The capability is here. Evidence-based data on how behaviour change works is also here. What’s needed”, he says, “is for the possessors of these two disparate fields of knowledge – software engineers and cognitive scientists, whose paths don’t normally cross – to seek each other out and collaborate.”
Fogg, director of the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab, went on to say “The real key to changing behaviour, not just in healthcare but in any consumer experience, is to help people do what they already want to do. That’s motivation. There’s no way you can browbeat someone to do something they don’t want to do. …. To help them to do what they want to do, you have to make it really easy to do that thing. That’s ability. And then you need a trigger, a reminder, to prompt behaviour. That’s the overall recipe. If you don’t have any one of those things — motivation, ability, and trigger – I guarantee the app will fail. You have to do them all.”
This edition of Practical Apps – like the previous edition – brings family physicians and patients apps that have been developed within or in partnership with Canadian healthcare organizations. These reviews look at all-Canadian efforts to harness technology to promote healthy behaviours with the added benefit of having been developed with clinical oversight and evaluation.
CANImmunize is a feature-rich vaccination app developed with Canadian physicians and funded by the Government of Canada. It is designed as a digital alternative to traditional paper immunization records. It allows users to track vaccines that have either been previously administered or are due according to the vaccine schedule within their province or territory. The app also provides educational content to help users learn more about vaccines and vaccine safety. The app is well designed, fairly easy to use and provides accurate information. However, a few bugs did appear that are described in more detail in the review below. Overall, CANImmunize has a lot of potential and could foreseeably be used to replace paper records in the future.
Prevention in Hand
Prevention in Hand is a content aggregator that is designed to help both patients and health care providers access credible Canadian information pertaining to health promotion and chronic medical conditions. The app was developed in partnership between the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) with the input of health care professionals. The app itself is easy to navigate and reliable. Links to external resources are categorized according to topic. However, all of the featured links open in an external web browsing app, making the process of reading multiple articles quite cumbersome. Furthermore, the app would benefit from having brief descriptors underneath each link to help users identify relevant resources more easily. Overall, Prevention in Hand is a useful resource for helping patients find credible Canadian medical content.
- Health promotion. Health Topics 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 12]; Available from: http://www.who.int/topics/health_promotion/en/.
- Scullard, P., C. Peacock, and P. Davies, Googling children’s health: reliability of medical advice on the internet. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2010. 95(8): p. 580-582.
- Kessels, R.P.C., Patients’ memory for medical information. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2003. 96(5): p. 219-222.