Personalised health behaviour management – how can data guide individuals towards healthy behaviour?

Blog post
Elina M. Mattila

Behaviour is the most significant determinant of an individual’s overall health. Everyday choices regarding rest, diet and exercise play a larger role in overall health than factors such as the environment, socio-economic factors or healthcare systems. 

However, changing behaviour and making better choices can be extremely hard. Maintaining new lifestyles in the long term is especially difficult, as it is human to revert to old habits. Personalised health behaviour management is an umbrella term for technologies designed to support individuals in analysing and improving their behaviour. 

In short, personalised health behaviour management aims to provide guidance, tools and motivation to help individuals make better decisions in each moment, personalized to their needs, preferences and situation.  

Towards personal virtual coaches

Technologies that support personal health monitoring are nothing new. For example, pedometers and heart rate monitors have been around for decades. The rise of smartphones brought about an abundance of health apps. These solutions tend to serve a user base that is already interested in monitoring their fitness. 

To combat the growing obesity rates and mental health issues, we need new solutions. Solutions that enable continuous, unobtrusive monitoring of health and behaviour as the basis for personalised support. Solutions smart enough to be useful for the public in general and not just the health enthusiasts.

Such solutions can, for example, take the shape of a personal virtual coach with a communication style and frequency adjusted to each individual. The coach can reduce behaviour changes to simple, everyday choices that form the basis of a new, healthier lifestyle. The coach can predict possible issues and offer solutions to them proactively, even before the individual is aware of them. 

There are already ample data available to create such coaches, but most of the data are in siloes – in exercise tracking apps, nutrition diaries, workforce management systems and the healthcare system. The next step will be to build ecosystems with multiple contributors each working towards the goal of helping the individuals change their behaviour. 

More evidence-based solutions needed

With thousands of apps already available, how can consumers pick and choose the really helpful ones? Ultimately, health behaviour is such a delicate area that it is irresponsible to offer anything but evidence-based solutions.

However, most of the health apps available in app stores are not evidence or theory based or rigorously validated. 

Involving experts in health, behavioural psychology, and digital intervention development in the early stages of the design process helps ensure that the solutions are developed on a sound theoretical basis and incorporate behaviour change techniques with proven effectiveness. Furthermore, validation with real users is necessary to ensure effectiveness and acceptability of the solutions. 
 

A partner in developing solutions for truly personalised health behaviour management

Are you developing a personalised health behaviour management solution? Get in touch and let’s see if we could help. In addition to digital behaviour change solution development, VTT has deep expertise in, data collection using all wearables imaginable from bandages to printable sensors. We can also help you analyse valuable health data while helping you determine the ethical questions involved with your project.

Finally, our wide networks can help you join an ecosystem with other developers of personal health behaviour management solutions. As said, ecosystems are the key to developing more holistic solutions.

Learn more about personalised health behaviour management and four other promising health tech trends from our recent Health Tech Trend Report.

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Elina M. Mattila

Elina M. Mattila

Senior Scientist
Industries