Population Health Insights

Positive Psychology, and Why It’s the Future of Patient Care and Engagement - Part 2

sean-slovenskiWhat happens when a patient management solutions provider applies the findings of positive psychology to the introduction and development of its products? In Part 2 of our interview with Sean Slovenski, CEO of Care Innovations, we’ll learn how creating individualized connections between patient, provider, and technology is impacting outcomes in patient engagement in ways that go beyond health statistics and into the realm of personal growth. (Read part 1 here)

How does Care Innovations integrate an understanding of positive psychology in the development of new technology?

A few things: on our advisory board, we have Dr. Neal Mayerson who is one of the top psychologists and a former partner of mine. He helps us think through what’s coming next, and we also have a variety of behavioral experts on our advisory board. It starts with top-level thinkers to make sure we’re thinking in a broader context.

Second, when we’re testing in our lab, we’re doing a lot of question asking and in-home observation. We’re being observers of behavior before we’re coming in with a piece of technology. With us, it’s good-thinkers first, and then lots of observational time. There is no replacement for the observational work, that’s where the biggest insights come from.

As an example fo this, one of the biggest things we find in the home is pets. A lot of research shows if you have a pet, when you’re petting them, your blood pressure goes down and you’re less stressed. There’s a physical response. That sense of comfort, unconditional love… makes a big difference.

So, how does a pet play into this? How does the pet motivate this person? “You want to be here to take care of Spot, don’t you?” Pets are incredibly motivational, but also problematic if someone has to care for them and are not very mobile. So, even understanding the dynamic with the pet in the home has a profound impact on how you approach a care plan.

Can you think an example of a behavioral change with a Care Innovations product that was modified as a response to positive psychology?

The University of Mississippi Medical Center diabetes project:. Before we had this Tablet-type device that had a few buttons and you’d hand it to the person and say “good luck” like every other remote patient monitoring group would do. But by personalizing the content to the individual, tailoring how many people need visual interaction with their caregiver vs. those that don’t – we were able to customize the interaction with a device.

What came out of that was a nearly 90% adherence to following the protocols of the program, to the point that the Tablet-type device with the video conferencing included actually became an emotional attachment for the patient. In lieu of the nurse or doctor being with them all the time, because they met with them through the device, that device took on the persona of their professional caregiver and so they were emotionally attached to the device, so they literally didn’t want to leave it anywhere.

It became less about a piece of technology and  more about the surrogate for their doctor or nurse. A lot of the research shows how human relationship actually activates a sense of motivation and accountability.


Positive Psychology And The Patient Engagement Trifecta – Patient, Professional, And Family Caregiver

When I talk about positive psychology with our prospective clients, it’s a differentiator. There’s the patient and how to motivate them, but there’s also the nurse who is doing the care – they have their own hang-ups about technology.

There are different things that motivate them. We’re trying to understand their core strengths and motivations and tie that in as well. The more they’re engaged and supportive of technology, the more the patient will be. There’s an issue there, quite frankly: most remote patient management program’s  nurses aren’t happy because most nurses got into the business to lock eyeballs and touch humans and cure for them, and now they’re working through video/phone. There tends to be a high rate of dissatisfaction because no one has helped them make the leap that they’re doing the same good work, just in a different way. That’s very important.

Also, the family caregiver – we have tools and resources to apply to their strengths and what they need. The research shows that half of the healthcare given in the home is given by the family caregiver, who has more influence on the patient’s use of resources. The less healthy and more stressed the family caregiver is, the more healthcare utilization goes up for the patient. The psychological mentality is “Dad, I feel like unhealthy, I’m burned out and running out of money taking care of you. If I feel this bad, you must be 10 times worse because you are the sick one, we must get you to the doctor.” And also they think they need a break, so getting dad to the hospital is a relief so they can mentally take a break and don’t have to worry for the next 24 hours.

That trifecta – professional, family caregiver and patient – we’re trying to apply the behavioral mentality to all three because when they’re aligned, that’s where you find nirvana in terms of patient engagement and positive health outcomes.