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  • Robert Reuss

Personalized Health Communication – Summary of Studies

· Personalized Healthcare is the integrated practice of well-being, healthcare and patient support, based on an individual’s unique biological behavioural social and cultural characteristics. Services tailored proactively for each patient at several levels empowers the individual by “the right care for the right person at the right time” leading to better outcomes. (Simmons, L. et al. 2014. Patient engagement as a risk factor in personalized health care: a systematic review of the literature on chronic disease).

· The first step to personalization, however, is collecting the right data. According to an article published in Health Data Management, “Many healthcare organizations are using consumer insights—including demographic and psychographic data, past care program data and claims history—to develop tailored communications designed to maximise patient participation.” (Kenney, K., 2018. HIT Think Four ways payers and providers can use tech to aid patients' experience).

· In the current age of the internet, social media and instant gratification, people and particularly millennials are demanding more personalization and greater use of technology when it comes to their healthcare (Hussey, K. 2016. How Personalization Drives Effective Patient Engagement and Delivers Enriched).

· Research has shown that "persuasive games and gamified systems can be strategically designed to motivate desirable behaviour change; for example, to help people overcome addictive behaviours such as substance abuse, promote personal wellness, manage diseases, engage in preventive behaviours and avoid risky behaviours ". The authors conducted a large-scale study of 660 participants that examined how people of different personalities (as identified by the Big-Five Personality) respond to various persuasive strategies that are widely used in persuasive health games and gamified systems. Their results revealed that people's personality traits play a significant role in the perceived persuasiveness of different strategies (Orji et al., 2017. Towards personality-driven persuasive health games and gamified systems).

· Current research demonstrates a large gap between the budget allocated to public health campaigns and the effect achieved through the implementation of such campaigns. The authors argue "that health communicators need to look at personality as a segmentation variable for audience selection and message designing purposes". Their results "clearly reflected the contention that personality indeed serves as an important factor for predicting the attitudinal reactions to various appeals. Personality can be used as a pivotal segmentation variable when designing health campaigns." (Dutta, M. J., & Vanacker, B. (2000). Effects of personality on persuasive appeals in health communication).

· The authors stress the importance of effective communication in health care and recognises that communication skills are becoming an integral part of professional training. Patients are viewed as having varying needs and priorities when consulting with a health professional. The authors present a model, based on the MBTI, that they have developed for applying type preference to health care communication" (Allen, J., & Brock, S. A. (2013). Health care communication using personality type: patients are different!).

· Tailoring as a strategy to enhance motivation to process health information - by enhancing the relevance and salience of information. Analyses showed significantly greater cognitive activity among those receiving the tailored materials. Specifically, they reported significantly more positive thoughts about the materials, made more positive personal connections to the materials, had more positive self-assessment thoughts, and had more positive thoughts indicating behavioural intentions than those who received none-tailored or generic materials (Kreuter, Bull, Clark, & Oswald, 1999) (in Rimer, B. K., & Kreuter, M. W. (2006). Advancing tailored health communication: A persuasion and message effects perspective.).

· Tailoring has been defined as “any combination of strategies and information intended to reach one specific person, based on characteristics that are unique to that person, related to the outcome of interest, and derived from an individual assessment.” The basic premise behind tailored health communication is that information that is customised to an individual (rather than a group) will be viewed as more personally relevant, will be more likely to be read and cognitively processed, and ultimately will have a better chance of stimulating behavioural change. Tailored health communication programs have the potential to achieve both high efficacy and high reach. Indeed, early applications of tailoring demonstrated that the practice was capable of positively affecting behaviours as diverse as smoking cessation, dietary change, and mammography screening. Moreover, recent reviews and meta-analyses have concluded that such interventions are generally efficacious across a broad range of health behaviours. Studies have also demonstrated the high reach of many tailored interventions (Noar, S. M., Grant Harrington, N., Van Stee, S. K., & Shemanski Aldrich, R. (2011). Tailored health communication to change lifestyle behaviours.).

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