Kicking off the news for nurses this week is a look at how we go about attempting to influence healthy behaviors in our patients. I talk all the time about how we need to focus on educating our patients about healthy behaviors and habits.

Changing the Way We Influence Change

behavior influenceI urge you to engage your patients with questions about their behaviors and lead them to resources to change. But maybe I’ve been going about this the completely wrong way. A recent article from the Harvard Business Review suggests that merely educating or even financially incentivizing healthy behaviors is a losing proposition.

People continue to smoke, gain weight, and engage in other unhealthy behaviors despite our best efforts. The author backs up his assertions with data on workplace wellness and compliance programs success or lack thereof. They suggest instead that we use something called behavioral economics to change people’s habits.

Behavioral Economics and Nursing

Behavioral economics is defined as the study of the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals. This means that we should use people’s natural inclinations for their own good.

This could make an interesting setup for a whole new set of nursing interventions to influence healthy behaviors. The article poses a few concrete examples and I swear they all sound like something a nurse would come up with.

So, instead of forcing people to go on automatic prescription renewals by mail or merely reducing copays for some meds to nearly nothing to encourage medication compliance, behavioral economics poses an alternative. The focus is on the pain of having to manually refill prescriptions in person rather than the ease of a simple automatic renewal you don’t have to worry about. Do you see the difference there?

Focusing on the underlying behaviors that are influenced might be a better way to go. I think there is a nursing research opportunity here. If you do, make sure you let me know and maybe I can have you on the show here in the future.

Make sure you follow-up on the links for this news item and all of the other news and additional resource links from this week’s episode – AANA President Sharon Pearce and Nursing Show Episode 324.

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