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CBC Digi-Hub Blog



Codifying the health of a nation

By ucjubil, on 20 June 2017

By Eleanor Heather, a Behavioural Strategist at Ogilvy Change

Recently I took part in my first ever competitive ‘hackathon’. Working with an interdisciplinary team of individuals, all experts in their various fields, we were tasked with solving some of society’s biggest and prevailing health problems: how do you get people to adhere to chronic disease medications? Or take preventative action to avoid diabetes and obesity?

Our specific remit was to ‘cognify the health of the nation’, using IBM Watson and Bluemix capabilities to solve such issues.

Many impressive, and some truly inspirational concepts were developed and prototyped.

But, what also emerged from the blood sweat and tears was the realisation that whilst we can have all the digital capabilities, Big Data sets and motivations to ‘do good’ in the world, without grounding a product’s development in sound behavioural theory we’re unlikely to achieve longer-term change.

Without understanding the fundamentals of behavioural change – for example the need for human as much as digital interaction –  we risk simply developing more apps that, although engaging in their own right, will ultimately die a death on someone’s smartphone when the next Pokemon Go comes along.

If combined with the insights from behavioural science and behaviour change theory, AI capabilities could really lead to strives forward in the health of our nation.

Take the issue of chronic medication adherence. AI technology like IBM Watson could enable a central platform which connects health care professionals to their individual customers. Fuelled by Big Data and importantly designed on a comprehensive behavioural model (e.g. COM-B), it is not unrealistic to imagine an alert popping up on a pharmacist’s computer alerting them to a patient about to arrive, and serving them up the most relevant BCTs, framed in the most engaging way to encourage mediation adherence.

I left tired, but empowered knowing that AI hasn’t quite replaced us yet. That there is still the need for our human brain in all its fallible glory.

BIO: Eleanor Heather is a Behavioural Strategist at Ogilvy Change, Ogilvy&Mather’s Behavioural Interventions Agency.


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