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By Leslie Jamison, EVP Corporate Ventures and Tim Fisher, VP Behavioral Science, Klick Health

If there’s one thing we are certain of as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic containment measures, it’s that our work-life behaviors have been fundamentally altered. The future will look different from the past, and life sciences companies will need to proactively adapt and reconsider their customer engagement playbook (from medication adherence to education) to one that embraces the behavioral changes occurring in the not-so-distant future.

The mandate to “shelter at home” has suddenly and dramatically introduced a global behavioral experiment that has disrupted daily routines, including our health-related habits. But, in this global behavioral experiment also lies an opportunity. Living in our home environments 24/7 brings elements of our daily context to the forefront. As we’re becoming more keenly aware of how our health is influenced by the features of where we live, what we have access to, and who we live with, we should also start asking questions like, can we leverage this time of reflection and formation of new habits to help patients take better care of themselves when it comes to managing the risk factors of chronic conditions? How can we leverage the powerful influence of patients’ everyday contexts to help them with their health goals?

Habits are fundamentally interactions between people and their environments. We often take instinctual cues from our surroundings that trigger certain behaviors (think smokers and having a cocktail).

When we repeatedly carry out the same behavior in a particular stable context, we develop an automatic association between that context and our behavioral response. For example: taking medication after performing a routine behavior, like brushing teeth, because it’s easier to remember to take it at a specified time, triggered by a contextual cue.

However, context is often neglected in behavior change. But in our current lives, isolated at home, context is brought into stark relief. And many of us will emerge from Covid-19 with a new desire to craft a context that helps us be healthier.

Social isolation and new health habits, like physical distancing, are forcing people to experiment with new behaviors, many of which are becoming habitual. It has become commonplace to work remotely, order groceries online, stream concerts and participate in virtual exercise programs. Creating lifestyle changes, through new habits, is an essential part of managing many of the leading health risks today. As people experience a change in context, there is an opportunity to help them make important behavioral changes.

Research in behavioral science has proposed that effective habit change strategies introduce interventions at the times when people are naturally changing contexts.  Therefore, we believe that there will be a unique opportunity as our contexts change again when the pandemic subsides and people will once again have to make changes to their lives and their habits.

As our contexts change, people living with various conditions will be considering new approaches and will have a greater openness to forming new habits. The pandemic has heightened people’s awareness of being healthy and the importance of a strong immune system. We believe that this creates a huge opportunity for life sciences companies to help out.

Action plan for life sciences leaders

Here are some ways to provide assistance to patients when their contexts change.

  1. Fuel some of the new behaviors that are taking place:
    • Re-evaluate existing programs/initiatives to incorporate some of the new behaviors formed in the “stay at home” context such as:
      • Heightened focus on staying healthy (mind and body) through online cooking classes, fitness, meditation, etc.
      • Increased vigilance on hygiene and safety
      • New education channels
  1. Overcome past barriers:
    • Determine which barriers in initiating, switching, and adhering to therapies can be overcome in different contexts (at home, going back to work, going back to school, etc.). For example, if switching to insulin injections was easier to do because the patient injected themselves at home, how can you help reduce the barriers when their context changes post-pandemic?                  
  1. Create meaningful patient experiences through fresh eyes:
    • Understand what customers’ new expectations look like and the moments/contexts where those expectations can be met with meaningful customer experiences.
  1. Tap into contextual cues:
    • Think about different contexts as people go back to work — whether it be getting back on the subway, waiting at bus stops, or eating in workplace cafeterias — to create in-context experiences that can be a cue to change habits.

For more details on how to implement these steps, please explore Life (Sciences) After Covid-19, to read the full article and find a collection of Klick Health perspectives designed to inform and inspire the life sciences community for the changes, challenges, and opportunities anticipated as a result of the global health crisis.