A bestselling author tackles the future of health care
Do you know what happens after someone publishes a book that represents their last 20 years of Purpose? I’ve been trying to answer that question myself ever since No Sweat was published last summer. I wondered if I would ever have this sort of energizing passion in my life again.
Researching what fosters lasting motivation and sustainable behavior change has been my North Star, and being able to share my discoveries with all of you in No Sweat has been the culmination of this two-decade quest. During this time, I discovered myself and my passion, and experienced deep creativity and intellectual stimulation. It drove and delighted me beyond belief.
So what happens now that my book has been launched into the world?
I mourn the loss of having that singular purpose, but I also appreciate that life is a process of learning and change. I’d be in denial if I said I didn’t want another Profound Purpose to pursue. But when I really thought about it, I recognized that my larger, more audacious goal has always been to “change the culture” around physical activity and self-care more generally. And from that perspective, I realized, No Sweat marked the beginning of my work, not the end at all – a seed from which to grow the needed changes for creating sustainable behavior change across society.
New insights and opportunities suddenly came flooding in, shifting me from a sense of loss to curiosity and enthusiasm. I’ve shifted from focusing on how to create a method of sustainable behavior change for individuals to being fascinated by creating complex, integrated systems that can support sustainable behavior change on organizational and population-wide levels. I’m now excited to help solve more complicated multi-level puzzles through identifying how to scale and weave the most potent scientific principles into redesigning systems within health care as well as the wellness and fitness industries.
Complex Issues that Have My Attention
1.Creating systems that foster patient engagement, empowerment and behavioral sustainability: As a frequent physical therapy consumer, I’ve been astounded by the systematic lack of attention to fostering patient adherence, when adherence determines not only healing trajectories but preventing the need to return. Our health care system is also currently not set up to help patients succeed at sustaining foundational self-care behaviors like sleep and physical activity. In general, clinicians have not been trained to cultivate the drivers of autonomous motivation and ongoing self-regulation (e.g., self-management) systematically and effectively.
I’m very curious about how we can transform this situation, and I see at least three connected approaches: a) updated curriculum in medical school and other types of clinician training; b) new simple protocols that clinicians can use with patients that ask the right questions in order to leverage decision making science; and c) integrating these new counseling protocols with EMRs and personal mobile devises to create an integrated, comprehensive high-touch, high-tech system.
I’ve been collaborating on research in a primary care clinic to explore the use of new lifestyle counseling protocols that are based on science from decision making and motivation science in addition to working with organizations that want to improve their telephonic lifestyle and chronic disease management counseling protocols.
2.Teaching clinicians how to better prioritize their own self-care in order to foster their well-being, reduce burnout, but also because then they can become better self-care ambassadors to patients: My colleagues and I are investigating how to enhance thriving in clinicians and their units. I also have a Thriving through Self-Care™ curriculum that I am excited to deliver within health care contexts. This is a new area of work that I believe will reap rewards for professionals, patients, and organizations.
3.Understanding the core concepts that foster engagement with self-care that can be used across marketing, social media, apps, and others behavioral interventions. I’m delighted to be working with a health system to leverage ideas from No Sweat to create new approaches to employee wellness, including a strategic comprehensive social media campaign for their employees, patients, and greater community. And I couldn’t be prouder that key ideas from No Sweat have been included in the North Carolina’s Department of Public Health’s new CDC-approved Diabetes Prevention Program called “Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes.”
For the last five years, I’ve been delivering keynotes and sustainble-behavior-change trainings around the country teaching professionals and organizations out how they can learn to apply these principles wherever they need them.
4.Leveraging the science of motivation in redesigning marketing, products, and services to help niche businesses, like fitness clubs, learn to help their members love and stick with exercise inside and outside of the club. There are great ideas to explore that can connect apps with high-touch situations in many industries. However, many health clubs are operating within outdated models and paradigms – they think that they will lose members if they help them learn how to feel successful outside of their clubs. But I believe and have experienced the opposite. This is a new time for gyms/clubs, and just like health care, those who choose to align with, instead of reject, behavioral science to improve retention and sustainability will lead the way.
5.Helping large organizations develop new wellness philosophies/paradigms and approaches that can engage not only employees but their greater communities.It has been a privilege to consult with a leading integrated managed care organization on these issues as well as be on the advisory committee that is helping our university’s employee wellness program enter its next generation. The key? Not only do the overarching paradigms need to be rebranded “from health to well-being,” but every part of these initiatives have to be aligned and integrated, from the traditional “Health Risk Appraisal” (an unfortunate term) through to the programming employees participate in. There are key pillars of communication based on the science of what drives people’s decisions that should be used consistently.
In this new era of employee well-being, the consumer experience is paramount. The behavioral programming offered to employees (both high-tech and high-touch) will be considered the lever of success for both individual and business-level outcomes. Because of that, we are in the midst of a revolution in the behavioral programming vendors offer. However, while most are rushing to create the coolest technology-based solutions, the leading vendors will actually also overhaul their health coaching protocols too. They will 1) move beyond traditional Motivational Interviewing and nice-sounding but outdated “wellness” frameworks to ones that more systemically target and move key scientific principles; and 2) be accompanied by and integrated with aligned apps. (I’ll write more details about this in the future.)
Stay tuned! In the upcoming months I’ll share findings from new research related to achieving these goals.