David Asch, VAL Health Co-Founder and Principal, is the Executive Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Innovation. In 2018, David received the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation David E. Rogers Award, given for “major contributions to improving the health and health care of the American people.”
Health behavior change is about helping people achieve goals they already have, but have a hard time accomplishing.
Until a few decades ago, people were thought to have stable preferences and act in predictable, “rational” ways. But if that was true, people wouldn’t eat dessert when on a diet, start smoking despite known risks, or waste heard-earned money on lottery tickets.
Then, the idea was to use traditional economics to steer behaviors. Yet people consistently behave irrationally with money – most members on high deductible health plans don’t use cost comparison tools to shop for the cheapest care, and many patients don’t get preventive screenings even when the copay is dropped to $0.
Our understanding has evolved
Recent scientific research has uncovered that we are subject to common decision biases that get in the way of us behaving perfectly “rationally” and achieving our goals, such as:
- InertiaWe tend to stick with the status quo, so it's difficult to start or stop a behavior
- Choice OverloadWe get overwhelmed when we have too many choices, often leading to indecision or regret
- Present BiasWe value rewards in the present more than equivalent rewards in the future
- Loss AversionWe are more affected by losses than we are by equivalent gains
- Social ProofWe are social beings, caring what others think of us and what others do
Through the field of behavioral economics, we now understand that while we might not be perfectly rational, our decisions tend to be predictable. At VAL Health, we harness this knowledge to create health behavioral economics solutions to nudge consumers, patients, members, providers, and other stakeholders to become more engaged in and proactive about their health.
WE DRIVE HEALTH BEHAVIOR CHANGE THROUGH OUR TOOLKIT:
We design the choice environment to make the preferred path the easy path, through tools such as strategic ordering, defaults, and enhanced active choice
We enhance the impact of communications with proven techniques, such as social norming, anchoring, and scarcity
We maximize the impact funds through benefit design and salient financial incentives, including designs like at-risk accounts and contests