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Time For Your Social Network’s Colonoscopy: Helping people take action and gleaning new insights.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
By Geri Lynn Baumblatt & Shai Levi

 



Shai Levi

Preventive medicine is a great way to prevent and treat problems early. But there’s a problem: while clinicians recommend flu shots and screening colonoscopies and insurers often pay for them, participation rates are low.
 
Of course, many people don’t take part because they don’t see themselves as patients. After all, they’re generally healthy -- so why act? Behavioral-science attacks this by trying to understand and influence people’s decision-making processes:
  • Are people aware of the risk?
  • Do they understand the guidelines regarding who should get screened?
  • And do they have any sense of urgency to take action now?
 
Clinicians are in the role of medical expert. Their recommendations are influential, but it’s only part of an individual’s decision-making process. What about:
  • Pain or discomfort?
  • Time lost at work?
  • And a colonoscopy is an embarrassing ordeal, right?
 
People don’t usually think of clinicians as experts in these topics and look to their peers. And their peers are only a click away.
 
A Social Network Story
At age 63, David Ron was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Sadly, it took his life 3 years later. David created a one minute video that posted to Facebook when he passed away. In it, he talks about why he postponed screening for 13 years. He felt healthy and thought his risk for colon cancer was remote. So he didn’t see the point. Then symptoms appeared, and it was too late. He encourages people to get screened and avoid his fate.
 
The video (which can be viewed here) went viral. In Israel, it was adopted by organizations fighting cancer; they created Arabic, Russian and French subtitles and boosted it across Facebook. It’s been seen by over 400,000 people in the past year. Many younger people asked their parents if they’d been screened and nudged them to go. It’s hard to assess the impact on actual screenings, but initial measures showed that at least 1% of people who saw the video were motivated to get screened. And it contributed to the larger task of normalizing the conversation.
 
A personal story is always compelling, but most people don’t talk about their colonoscopy or stool test over drinks or dinner. However, on social networks people are more comfortable posting, commenting, “liking” and sharing about uncomfortable or controversial topics. They vocalize their opinions, get feedback from their peers and friends, and influence other people’s minds.  
 
So, in a world where people don’t get to spend much time with their doctor and where clinician recommendations can be seen as checking a “good patient” box -- or may even be suspect as unsafe (think vaccines), people turn not just to Dr. Google, but less consciously to the their social networks. They learn if others are getting the flu shot this year, or getting colonoscopies or mammograms at age 50. They may not go online looking for this, so much as absorb it in the chatter and conversations.
 
Turns out, this is a big deal. Because if you come to believe an action is thought of as standard or normal in our culture (a social norm) and you believe your peers and people you respect think you should engage in a behavior (subjective norms) those both play a critical role in your decision to take action. Yep, you’re more likely to do what your friends and peers are doing. And social networks are now a major place where people get those insights.
 
Insights when AI meets Social Media
A network like Facebook is a good source of data. Every like, share comment, video view, and click is aggregated and segmented. Artificial Intelligence or “AI” can sift through the data and identify patterns and provide insights.
 
For example, the African American population has a higher risk for colon cancer and should get screened earlier, at age of 45. Yet, screening rates are low. To understand why, 30 different interventions were used to educate people about colon cancer screening and collect data on Facebook. Some were short videos of a local doctor talking about: risk of colon cancer, pros of colonoscopy, the prep, sedation, time off work, costs, etc. These were delivered to people over 45 in a geographical area (250K people fit criteria). The AI picked up a pattern revealing that young African American males in the 45-50 age range responded especially well to messages about sedation during colonoscopy and open access, which reduces time off work.
 
How can this help you?
 
  1. Help create the norms
    Anyone working in a hospital or clinic can be both a professional and a peer. Want to normalize advanced directives or flu shots? Have anyone on staff who’s gotten the vaccine or done their directives wear a button or badge that says they got or did theirs.

     
  2. Consider group appointments
    Conversations from peers can help normalize, reassure, and encourage others in the group to take action.
 
  1. Consider how to use social networks as part of your patient engagement strategy.
    Do you have a Facebook page, Twitter chats, or other social media presence? The combo of AI and social networks can lead to important insights on what people are saying and what messages resonate with various groups. 

Shai Levi is a Co-founder and VP of product at Medorion in Tel-Aviv. Shai is helping to develop an AI-driven platform that enables population-health teams to effectively activate large populations without being experts in behavioral science or expert marketers. Previously he worked at Allscripts leading their population health analytics R&D. @ShaiLevi1980

Geri Lynn Baumblatt
For the last 20 years, Geri has worked to help people understand health conditions and procedures, orient them to their diagnoses, make more informed decisions about their care, and partner with their care teams.  She oversaw the creation of the Emmi program library, and she regularly speaks and serves on patient engagement, patient experience, health literacy, shared decision making, health design, family caregiving, and heath communication panels for organizations like AHRQ, the Brookings Institute, Stanford Medicine X, and the Center for Plain Language. She serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Patient Experience, is on the board of the Society for Participatory Medicine, and published a chapter in Transformative Healthcare Practice through Patient Engagement (IGI Global). She currently consults on patient engagement, family caregiving, and health communication. Follow her on Twitter @GeriLynn

 

Tags: patient engagement, communication, personal healthcare, technology, experience, healthcare, listening, patient
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