Making an Impact in Healthcare Through Behavioral Design

The healthcare industry had to swiftly adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the whole world. The surge in demand for vaccines, medications, and medical services was overwhelming, surpassing our capabilities to cope with it.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been a noteworthy change in how individuals engage with the healthcare industry. The rapid implementation of digital technology has significantly contributed to this shift in healthcare paradigm, prompting us to consider how we can establish trust with our clients and users.

Requesting Change

The medical industry has been revolutionized by the emergence of robotics and artificial intelligence in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where the question is no longer if we will adopt this technology but when. Virtual reality (VR) education and surgery, automated medical diagnostics, and other advanced technological advancements are all part of this transformation. While some people are excited about the possibilities of a futuristic world of technology, there are others who are concerned about its impact.

The ongoing struggle with the spread of COVID-19 around the world has led to individuals taking drastic measures, like burning cell towers, to prevent its spread. As a result, it is reasonable to worry about the potential consequences of further advancements in artificial intelligence, algorithms, and robots. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that these innovations can be leveraged to make constructive advancements, rather than the dystopian outcome depicted in films such as The Terminator.

There are measures we can adopt to facilitate a more seamless transition into the future. One recent development that deserves our attention is Tesla’s upcoming robot, known as “Codename Optimus,” which was announced by Elon Musk in the beginning of 2023. To commemorate the reveal of this robot, a dancer in a prototype robotic suit performed a techno dance.

Several reviewers found the demonstration either amusing or absurd. Nevertheless, I see it as a carefully orchestrated marketing tactic. Let me elaborate on my perspective.

Designing robots with both human-like features and behavior presents a substantial challenge in navigating the ‘uncanny valley.’ When something closely resembling us appears to be imperfect, it frequently induces a feeling of unease. My perspective is that using specific psychological methods is a valuable approach to address this problem.

According to the rules of association, items presented together are more likely to be linked. For instance, the sound of a dental drill and pain. To diminish the adverse perception of a particular technology, Tesla is organizing a comical demonstration that involves a dancer dressed as a robot.

Behavioural Models

A behavioral model serves as a simplified portrayal of the conduct and driving forces of living organisms. B.F. Skinner’s model is frequently employed to elucidate the fundamentals, upon which other behavioral models are built.

Skinner’s theory held that prior behavior shapes human behavior. To be exact, he proposed that we acquire knowledge of how our conduct affects our surroundings through repeated reinforcement or its absence when we exhibit the same conduct.

To clarify, consider the following examples:

  • It is widely claimed that the scent of freshly baked cookies serves as a reminder to inspect the kitchen. When a friend bakes a new batch and offers one, this is known as reinforcement. Typically, the person will immediately head to the kitchen on future occasions when they smell the aroma of freshly baked cookies.
  • After the engine has been switched on, an alarm will ring out, producing an annoying beeping sound that continues until the seatbelt is fastened. This serves as a reminder that undesirable circumstances can be sidestepped in the future by simply putting on the seatbelt.
  • After tasting a freshly brewed cup of coffee, I suffered a painful burn on the roof of my mouth, which illustrated the importance of being careful when consuming hot beverages. This served as a potent reminder that hot drinks can be injurious, and I have since been more cautious when drinking them.

It is crucial to keep in mind that there is usually a sequence of stimulus, response, and reinforcement. This is one of the simplest models. Researchers and behavioral engineers have developed other models that integrate cognitive processes between stimulus and response, but this is not within the scope of this discussion.

Thorough Analysis of Behaviour

By utilizing a behavioral model, we can employ behavioral design to devise technological solutions. This entails leveraging psychological principles to predict how users would engage in different situations.

The mobile gaming sector serves as a prime illustration of how mechanisms based on surprise can be utilized to motivate users to execute in-app purchases. The incorporation of “loot-boxes,” which yield an eye-catching display, has been discovered to activate the pleasure centers of the brain.

To utilize behavioral design, it is imperative to ascertain the desired behaviour from the user and then create feedback loops that both encourage it and discourage alternative, less desirable behaviours.

Returning to the mobile gaming analogy, when a player runs out of lives, they have the choice to pay a nominal fee to restart the game immediately, or wait for a few hours to begin playing again at no cost. It is obvious which of these choices is the reward and which is the penalty.

The adoption of behavioral design can enhance user onboarding. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be harnessed to simplify the process of scheduling medical appointments. Although patients can still make an appointment by speaking with a receptionist over the phone, they can avail a 10% discount by using the AI system.

Using an app for scheduling an appointment is one thing, but letting an AI perform surgery is an entirely different matter. Nonetheless, we must keep in mind the importance of feedback loops! If one desires a more extensive exposure, a gradual approach is the most appropriate course of action.

Scheduling an appointment is the first step, followed by using a device to measure blood pressure and obtaining a diagnosis from Artificial Intelligence. By gradually introducing technology and also showcasing its more advanced forms, people need not feel anxious about it.

This exemplifies consecutive approximations, a notion derived from B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. Repeated exposure to a stimulus can cause us to regard it as normal. To help individuals become more acclimated to or less affected by a stimulus, it can be introduced in progressively larger doses.

If your child is finding it challenging to consume their medication due to its flavour, there is a solution. You could begin by adding a few droplets to their water, enabling them to become familiar with the taste. After they have grown accustomed to it, you can gradually increase the dosage until it is no longer necessary to dilute it.

What Is Your Opinion on the Ethics of Behavioral Design?

Whether using designs to influence the actions of others is ethical is a relevant question. Regrettably, I am not in a position to offer a conclusive response. There is a possibility that some individuals may develop an addiction to the cited examples, especially ones resembling gambling games.

For over a decade, the US government has been employing behaviorist principles to develop public policy. With its successful implementation in the past, there is optimism that it will be effective once again.

In my view, behavioral design can be a potent instrument in aiding individuals to conquer unwarranted fears and encourage the adoption of potentially life-saving technologies. It is essential to realize that this is not a type of manipulation, but rather a technique for expanding one’s perspective.

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