Using technology in motivating change

Technology plays a big part in all aspects of our lives, influencing the way we do everything from our shopping habits to how we connect with people.

It may be more convenient but it’s often the culprit for reducing the amount of physical activity in our daily lives and impacting on our real-life social interactions.

However, the past few years have seen an explosion in the use of technology aimed at increasing activity, through the use of gadgets like activity trackers.

While consumer offerings have shown varying degrees of success for changing behaviour long term, digital healthcare brand Activinsights was developing upon its scientifically validated research-grade wearable into a novel low risk and cost-effective diagnostic tool to assist healthcare professionals in the diagnosis and management of specific conditions.

This technology was at the forefront of our minds at Shift when we were making plans for our Fit 4 Life initiative at Chesterfield Royal Hospital. Funded by Derbyshire County Council with the aim of increasing physical activity levels by the least active members of staff it’s leading to improved physical, mental and general wellbeing.

The perfect partnership

Andrea Kemp, Shift CEO said: “We were particularly drawn to Activinsights because of their credibility. The level of research they’ve carried out is impressive and the level of accuracy provided by the wristbands second to none.

“It also provides a really unique opportunity for health professionals to be able to sit down with people to discuss the data from the wristbands, creating closer relationships and shared ownership of that person’s health.”

Stephanie Sargeant, Brand Manager at Activinsights revealed: “There are so many values we have in common with Shift around communities and wellbeing so this was a perfect partnership. We could provide the technology and Shift could provide the behaviour change advice which supports that.

“The Activinsights Band provides an opportunity to tackle the healthcare issues caused by physical inactivity in a preventative and cost-effective manner.

“We were really excited to see what the response would be like from healthcare professionals. Although we’ve seen them used in employee wellbeing initiatives for businesses and within the NHS with patients, we’d never seen them used with NHS staff.”

Why is this technology so effective?

When joining Fit 4 Life, staff are given the opportunity to wear an Activinsights Band which will track their activity over a 12-week period. Every two weeks they meet with Fit 4 Life advisor Ashley who downloads the data and creates a personalised report to discuss with them.

The Activinsights Bands are slightly different to consumer ones because they don’t show immediate visual data to the user.

Stephanie explains: “Because people aren’t seeing that visual data they’re not totally reliant on the technology. The technology is more about collecting true, objective lifestyle data, to be used in educating and stimulating the conversations in a non-judgemental way, which is really important in empowering people to change.

“There’s lots of research into the immediate feedback given by consumer products which indicate people only remain interested for 6-8 weeks. The Activinsights Bands look to generate more long-term behaviour change.”

Andrea said: “We were particularly excited about integrating technology into this method of behaviour change. It adds another dimension and grounds our work in something concrete and real.

“Not only does it give us a rich source of data from which to evaluate the strength of the work and a structure to the process, it gives individuals a reason to keep engaging.”

Using the Bands

Stephanie said: “The Bands are unique because they have a one-year battery life and are completely waterproof. That sounds like a simple thing but it’s really important for people to be able to continuously wear it as part of their everyday life.

“In a busy environment like the NHS it has to involve as little effort as possible for the employee. People don’t need to worry about charging it or doing anything until they next have their appointment with Ashley.

“Another benefit, particularly in a healthcare setting is the data contained in the Bands is completely pseudonymous. There’s no data stored on the device which can directly identify the person using it which is important for privacy and data security and also for NHS governance.”

The data provided allows Ashley to pick up on certain spikes in activity in someone’s routine and question them about that.

Ashley said: “The data allows people to see visual improvements. At the beginning they are often surprised by how low their step count is or how long they are spending being sedentary when at work. But then we compare it to the weekend, this helps them realise they are capable of more and the small changes it takes to achieve that.

“If people don’t really feel they’re doing much extra over the 12 weeks, the data allows me to compare against that first week which regularly shows their activity levels have been consistently higher. You can then help them relate to how different they feel as a result.”

Creating behaviour change at Chesterfield Royal Hospital

Andrea said: “The level of motivation created by the technology has been fantastic. It’s created a level of curiosity which keeps people coming back, eager to see how their behaviour has changed from one period to the next.

“These are reliant on the individual actively making a choice, not simply responding to data on a watch because they feel they have to. They’re doing it for themselves, because they want to and that’s a powerful difference.”

Dawn Moore works in Nurse Education at Chesterfield Royal Hospital. She joined Fit 4 Life to try and counteract the amount of time she was spending sitting down whilst at work for 6-8 hours a day.

She said: “Even though the wristband doesn’t have a display, it helps because you aren’t cued to get up and move when it tells you to, you have to do it yourself. Seeing the results every couple of weeks at my appointments helps to keep me motivated to maintain what I’ve done or do more if I’ve had a bad week.

“I’ve noticed I’ve become more aware of when I’m sat down for a long time or if I’ve had a really busy day sat in front of the computer. I then try and compensate for that by doing more exercise at other times during the week.

“A few us in our department had done the GCC pedometer challenge in the past and it really helped us to get out walking more. But afterwards we all fell back into our old bad habits. This has reminded us that we can just do little bits when we have time to stay more active. It’s good to feel part of something like this”.

The future for Shift and Activinsights

Stephanie said: “We’re really keen to continue supporting the work of Shift. Hopefully we can integrate it into other employee wellbeing programmes and continue to share messaging around the importance of health and wellbeing. We’d love for this to be the first of many successful initiatives we work on together.”

Andrea said: “The success of Fit 4 Life has shown what a great time it is to combine technology and coaching styles to enable people to take responsibility for their wellbeing. We’re looking forward to building on what we’re learnt together so far with Activinsights to create more exciting opportunities in the future.”

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