Dr. BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and author of Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, has made creating systems designed to change behavior his life’s work. So who better to ask about what continuing medical education providers can do to facilitate change in their healthcare professional learners that results in better patient care?

Here are three things Fogg says can help you help your learners change for the better:

1. Stop calling what you’re doing “education.” If what you really aim to do is change behavior, that’s how you should be talking about your activity. Just changing the term you use to talk about what you do can shift the mindset of everyone involved.

And no, calling it “continuing professional development” instead of CME is not an improvement, he says. “When everyone understands that you’re not professionally developing or educating them, but are changing their behavior, their instincts are going to be a lot better.”

2. Be clear about what you want your HCPs to do. Do you want them to check their diabetic patients’ feet as part of every appointment? Order a specific test when presented with a certain set of symptoms? Follow up within a specific time period after a procedure? Fogg says that those who plan the intervention must be really precise about the desired behavior change.

3. Make the desired behavior easy to do. This, says Fogg, is likely going to be the biggest challenge, but you have to make itsimple for the docs to do what you want them to do.

Again, it’s important to choose your words carefully. “I wouldn’t focus on how you can motivate behavior change,” he says. In fact, he advises taking the phrase “motivate behavior change” out of your lexicon. Instead, think about how you can enable or facilitate behavior change. While motivating people to do something differently may come into play, it shouldn’t be the starting point, he says. “The starting point should be making it easier to do. Think about how you can help them incorporate those new behaviors into their practices, not how you can manipulate or persuade them.

"Once you start from that perspective, it will have a ripple effect that will affect everything else you do.”

Three Tiny Habits
Fogg recently created the 3 Tiny Habits program to help people change their behavior on a personal level. He breaks it down to three steps: Focus on a behavior you want to change, find a way to break that behavior down to something really small and doable, then find out how to trigger that behavior at the right time. Sometimes just that small, simple change is all you need, and sometimes the small thing naturally will lead to a larger, more complex version of the behavior change, or to other related changes.

Could this apply to continuing medical behavior change activities? Medical Meetings is interested in finding out. We’re looking for a few CME providers who would be interested in going through the Tiny Habits program (more here) with MM’s editor, then discussing how it may or may not have elements that apply to CME/CPD. Please e-mail Sue Pelletier if you’re interested.

More Information on BJ Fogg’s Work:

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model

3 Tiny Habits