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Nudge Behavioural Management: What is it?

Behavioural management is one of the best approaches to make everyone in your workplace work towards one goal, all while maintaining satisfactory productivity results. It applies to many workplaces, including the medical field. One of the applied behavioural management methods in the medical field is called nudge behavioural management. If you are not yet familiar with it, read on as we delve a little deeper.


Nudge Behavioural Management: What is it?

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein suggested in their book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, that if a person shows an unfavourable behaviour or decision-making pattern, it can still be "nudged" to a better behaviour or pattern.


The authors described nudging as a way to steer people's decisions when faced with choices to a direction that will improve their lives, all while maintaining or increasing their freedom of choice.


When applying nudges, insights, biases, and habits will be incorporated so that the person or a group of people will be directed to what is deemed a better option. It basically attempts to subtly influence a person's pattern of making choices or what is called “choice architecture,” without having to reduce someone's freedom to make choices or impose anything. There are some cases wherein incentives are used to further motivate such changes.


To understand this, here is a simple example:

While everyone is encouraged to get a retirement plan, you are not necessarily mandated to have one.

In the UK, pension is one of the ways you can save money for future use. You have the option to get a pension from the government and your employer. If you are a private employee, your employer will automatically enrol you into a pension. However, you still have the choice to opt out. If you are currently struggling with debts, you may think that opting out is the best thing to do because at the moment, it may seem like having such a plan is just an added burden.

In this scenario, nudging is applied by emphasising that it won't be wise to opt out of your pension plan. And if you want to have plenty of money as you retire and you don't want to be struggling in the future, you will be encouraged to be prepared as early as in your 20s.

Through nudging, the choices will be presented in a way that the person will make the ideal decision. In the example above, what's considered ideal is to not opt out of the retirement plan. While it reframed the choices available, it does not necessarily restrict or control the person from making their own choice.

Richard Thaler has also proposed three criteria of nudging, which includes:

  • Nudges should be clear and never misleading;
  • Simple to opt out of and,
  • Utilised to improve the wellbeing of individuals who are pushed.


Nudge Behavioural Management in the Medical Field

In the medical care settings, nudges can be helpful and impactful in providing patient and overall health care delivery. In fact, the health care industry can use nudges, and the medical industry has already explored nudge behavioural management.

Take for example the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit. It created the world's first behavioural design team involved in the operations of a health care system. Among the actions they did are the following:

  • To reduce opioid prescription, they used default options as a way to increase generic prescription;
  • To increase influenza vaccination, they utilised active choice; and,
  • To increase statin prescription and reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, they made use of peer comparison feedback.


Why Nudge Behavioural Management Won't Work

Nudging can be motivating, especially in the medical field, but it is not necessarily the ideal and the all-in-one solution for all kinds of problems in providing healthcare. Applying nudges is a promising method of managing behaviours among staff and even patients. However, there is a possibility that there will be areas that will be missed.

Nudges are ineffective if used for the good, particularly in promoting someone's wellbeing. The unfortunate thing about nudges is that they can be easily and readily misused, especially if the one assigned to do it is irresponsible and not trustworthy. Two of the unfavourable opportunities accessible with this behavioural management are deception and manipulation.

But then, one should acknowledge that nudge behavioural management can go further in the medical field, especially if the implementation of the appropriate nudges will be given careful attention.

And for any strategies to work and attain success, it should consider the best nudge design, integrate interventions into clinical workflow, involve a variety of stakeholders, test interventions thoroughly, and conduct rapid experimentation.

Once that is done, it will be possible to guide medical professionals' decisions and the behaviour of patients to whatever prescription will be recommended to them.


Work on Behavioural Modification with StratHealth Ltd

Should you find yourself in need of the services of health strategists, you can count on StratHealth Ltd as they will bring experience and knowledge that are second to none. Its founder, health strategist Peter Ellis, will ensure that behavioural modification and health improvement will be delivered effectively to its clients in the UK and beyond.

Call him today on 020 8128 4420 or send an email at to get started!


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