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3 ways Affective.health applies cognitive science to improve patient outcomes

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danielle

Chief Cognitive Scientist @ Affective Health

Behavior change is not something that comes naturally to us. Even when we know its in our best interest to do something, we tend to easily fall back into old habits. Cognitive and behavioral science explain why we do this and these theories and methodologies have become a part of our Digital Experience Platform (DXP).

Improve the Patient Experience

To encourage behavior change and support sustained change in the future, we use both in-house expertise - in learning, memory, motivation, and language - as well as external content experts on a project-by-project basis. Thrive easily accommodates interleaved learning of multiple topics, assessment of learning, as well as feedback within single programs in an unobtrusive manner.

  • Within the area of motivation and engagement, Thrive has referenced critical work in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2008), which provides an empirical basis for understanding different kinds of drives and rewards in relation to motivated action and cognition.
  • Within the area of positivity, Thrive relies on research including that of Martin Seligman (2018) and Barbara Frederickson (2001, 2004). Both have studied positivity as it relates to productivity, communication, collaboration, and breadth of thought.
  • Our partners have created content on the platform in a range of additional areas such as executive coaching, healthcare, and education.

3 Methods for Encouraging Patient Behavior Change

Below is a brief overview of three areas where we took principles from cognitive science and baked them into the way we work: Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), micro-learning, and interleaved learning.

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The DXP is built to allow for Ecological Momentary Assessment and related in-situ data collection methods (Bolger, Davis, Rafaeli, 2003; Shiffman, Stone, Hufford, 2008; Stone & Shiffman, 1994). These methods are the gold standard for “real world” data collection due to flexibility in scheduling, limited recall bias via in-the-moment responding, and a natural link to the incremental learning processing in the brain.

Ecological refers to the dissemination of information and the collection of data in a participant’s everyday environment.

  • This reduces the amount of recall bias relative to traditional surveys and questionnaires and ties the experience to actions that actually matter.
  • It is easy to send experiences out on a pseudo-random schedule. This reduces response bias even more and plays to the brain’s affinity for novelty and surprise.

Momentary refers to the brief, unobtrusive nature of the experiences.

  • This makes Thrive programs less onerous and more engaging than longer training sessions, and fits with the nature of human memory, which accumulates knowledge incrementally.
  • Multiple smaller experiences lead to a greater number and variety of retrieval cues, so users have the information they need at the top of their mind faster and in the right contexts.

Assessment refers to the high-quality nature of the data captured.

  • Superior to offline data collection methods in terms of response bias.
  • Data is carefully structured and easy to interpret.
  • Items can be coded and categorized within the DXP before output for ease of analysis as well as post-collection.

Experiences are most naturally created such that the user benefit from micro-learning - the learning of new concepts and other information in a more distributed, piece-meal manner than traditional courses and training (online or offline).

  • The flipside to EMA data-collection, the DXP makes it easy to distribute multiple, smaller experiences. This leads to better retention of information and a robustness to changes in context.
  • The human memory system is incremental; learning occurs over multiple instances of exposure, slowly building into robust, rich memories (Hintzman, 1984; Logan, 1988, Nosofsky & Palmeri, 1997). The DXP delivery system mimics these features of memory to supercharge effectiveness.

The flexible nature of the DXP’s delivery allows for interleaved learning to occur. Interleaved learning refers to learning in which information from multiple topic areas is woven together, compared to blocked learning of a single subject.

  • Over several decades, research has shown that students who learned new information via interleaved topic learned more effectively and retained more information than students who learned vis blocked topics (Goode & Magill, 1986; Kornell & Bjork, 2008); these effects increase as time passes (Rohrer, Dedrick, & Sterchic, 2015)
  • These findings make sense considering the memory system has been developed and tuned in a world in which disparate information sources are the norm. Thrive programs can feature interleaved content within single programs, or can be distributed in multiple, parallel programs.

Engaging Experiences for Sustained Behavior Change

Use the Affective.health DXP to transform your content into meaningful experiences to shift patient-consumer behavior and achieve more positive care outcomes more consistently.

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