Case Study

Social Science Principles that Influence Patient Behavior

Problem

Weight fluctuations can be a dangerous indicator for patients with heart failure. Increases need to be caught early to provide the appropriate care (such as adjusting medication dosage), thus reducing the likelihood of hospitalization. Patients are encouraged to weigh themselves daily, but many fail to do so in spite of the clear benefits.

Research

improve the psychological well-being of patients with heart failureWe tested features in a mobile app created by Pattern Health to encourage weight tracking and improve the psychological well-being of patients with heart failure. To improve the behavioral outcome of on-demand weight tracking in response to an unexpected prompt, we gave participants a smart scale and asked them to occasionally set an implementation intention whereby they specify exactly when they will take a weight measurement later that day to coincide with other evening activities (i.e. “after I brush my teeth”).

In addition, we aimed to increase heart failure patients’ sense of control, mastery of their condition, and mood. To increase patients’ sense of control, we allowed them to customize the timing of their medication reminders. Mastery was increased by giving participants quizzes about their condition that were impossible to fail. We gave participants pleasant activities to choose from and complete in order to elevate mood and well-being.

The research was supported by Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology, services and solutions.

Results

Establishing implementation intentions often leads to an increased likelihood of adopting behaviors, such as weighing oneself regularly. Although this study is ongoing, we hope to find that the intervention both improves on-demand weight tracking and psychological well-being among heart failure patients.

Why it matters

Findings from the study will inform some of Medtronic’s priorities as they were able to see how different behaviors improve patients’ response to their products. Medtronic also plans to use findings from this initial study in follow-up research.