The shifts in technology we need to power behaviour change at scale – Part 1

I’ve recently returned from the Digital Health Festival (DHF) in Melbourne along with 5,000 other delegates from across the health and wellbeing sectors. There is a lot happening to tackle the big challenges in healthcare, and one of the key themes was virtual care, with a whole conference stage dedicated to covering the latest innovations. 

What DHF helped reiterate for me is that while the ‘cool kids’ of AI, robotics and connected data can support population health planning, faster diagnosis, more efficient acute care and more knowledgeable health consumers – the more difficult challenge of moving to proactive health is still further down the list of talking points. It was really heartening to see the committed group of startups working directly in this space, and employers, insurers and EAPs backing it too.

If we can help people to improve their lifestyles, enable proactive care, better manage or better still avoid/reverse chronic conditions, we can help reduce the burden on acute services and contribute to a more balanced system. More importantly we can help people live their best lives, with more years free from disease and morbidity. Key to this is enabling behaviour change – especially those behaviours that make a meaningful impact to wellbeing – like sleep, movement, mindset, nutrition, mood, healthy habits. Behavioural science brings us proven interventions that are effective in helping change behaviour, and the huge opportunity is how to leverage technology to achieve scale. Supporting people to support themselves. 

I want to explore how technology plays a key role in enabling wellbeing and proactive care outside the offices of our health providers, employers, insurers and EAP providers; and share some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way and explain why we have invested heavily in getting our tech right. Here are the four key themes, in Part 1 of this two-part blog I’ll expand on the first two:

  1. Tech should help put consumers in the driving seat for change
  2. The tooling needs to make digital journeys adaptive and be able to mimic human coaching styles 
  3. Connecting data silos supercharges success
  4. Wellbeing providers need flexibility, no-code configuration and fast and easy onboarding 

1. Tech should help put consumers in the driving seat for change

Evidence and our experience working in this area tells us that successfully embedding new habits and behaviours relies on a personalised approach – we are all unique in our goals, we have our own reasons for change, and how, when and where we choose to engage with interventions. Tech needs to be underpinned by sophisticated logic that flexes and adapts as people engage in making change – giving people agency to lead, make their own choices, and pulse up and down as circumstances change. 

The tech should also have in-built mechanisms to engage and motivate participants, let them craft their own goals, provide psycho-educational content along the journey, as well as behavioural support and feedback that can further motivate and build skills for participants. Tech that enables people to do more and be more can create exceptional value and brand loyalty, along with providing a deep understanding of needs, both now and into the future. 

2. The tooling needs to make digital journeys adaptive and be able to mimic human coaching styles 

Health Coaching has proven itself again and again to deliver almost incomparable outcomes in supporting behaviour change for proactive health (hypertension, diabetes, weight loss and many more). That said, the funding to support health coaches remains limited, though growing. Technology led interventions can of course scale at little incremental cost.

The role of technology is two fold: one, provide a scaffolding to support coaches and maximise their utilisation, and two, create automated experiences that mimic the support a coach provides. What does that look like?

  • Tailored opportunities to develop new skills
  • Feedback based on how the participant is getting on including support,  encouragement, reflection, skills, prompts for self-directed problem solving and most importantly validation
  • Opportunities to develop when difficulties/barriers are encountered. Not directed, but enabling a self-led approach.

For tech to create this kind of experience, automated coaching journeys must branch, adapt and respond to meet customer needs. It must also enable interventions to start or advance based on composite signals (like how many steps for the day so far today, or have I done my gratitude reflection for the day for instance). This capability will be game-changing for organisations that have recognised the opportunity of going further than customer experience, and who see the upside of supporting their customers to achieve meaningful upgrades to their wellbeing. 

In the next blog we’ll cover the other key opportunities that technology can enable – and share more thoughts about the potential for digital behaviour change journeys. 

We’re working on something exciting that will change the way we support people’s wellbeing. If you’re interested, please follow me on LinkedIn or get in touch at