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Transl Behav Med. 2013 Sep;3(3):271-6. doi: 10.1007/s13142-013-0234-z.

How behavioral science can advance digital health.

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1
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA USA.

Abstract

The field of behavioral science has produced myriad data on health behavior change strategies and leveraged such data into effective human-delivered interventions to improve health. Unfortunately, the impact of traditional health behavior change interventions has been heavily constrained by patient and provider burden, limited ability to measure and intervene upon behavior in real time, variable adherence, low rates of implementation, and poor third-party coverage. Digital health technologies, including mobile phones, sensors, and online social networks, by being available in real time, are being explored as tools to increase our understanding of health behavior and to enhance the impact of behavioral interventions. The recent explosion of industry attention to the development of novel health technologies is exciting but has far outpaced research. This Special Section of Translational Behavioral Medicine, Smartphones, Sensors, and Social Networks: A New Age of Health Behavior Change features a collection of studies that leverage health technologies to measure, change, and/or understand health behavior. We propose five key areas in which behavioral science can improve the impact of digital health technologies on public health. First, research is needed to identify which health technologies actually impact behavior and health outcomes. Second, we need to understand how online social networks can be leveraged to impact health behavior on a large scale. Third, a team science approach is needed in the developmental process of health technologies. Fourth, behavioral scientists should identify how a balance can be struck between the fast pace of innovation and the much slower pace of research. Fifth, behavioral scientists have an integral role in informing the development of health technologies and facilitating the movement of health technologies into the healthcare system.

KEYWORDS:

Digital health; Social networks; mHealth

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