Subtle changes in letters or phone calls can influence customer behaviour and actions

“Nudge”* is one of those books that everyone seems to be reading. It’s all about choice architecture or how you can make people do things or choose prefered options by “nudging” (aka a small push in the right direction). Predictive text is a great example, unless it frustrates you as it seems to choose the wrong option! It’s a fascinating book with interesting ideas that you can put into practice right away.

So the PIPA Information Impact Award entry from Rayna Malde and Stuart Mudunkotuwe, AstraZeneca UK, intrigued me. They showed that cues used in phone calls or letters to doctors influenced the actions the customer took.

Simple changes can make a vast difference

Undereporting of adverse events (AE) is a well known and common problem. About 80% of the follow up reports of AEs sent by AZ were never returned from doctors. Like any pharma company, AZ take patient safety seriously so looked at ways they could improve this return rate. They turned to influencing behaviours for their solution. Heavily influenced themselves by the book Influencing: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini, they devised phrases to use in phone calls or letters to encourage doctors. They also asked 58 healthcare professionals (HCP) what were the most important factors to encourage them to return the form. The key factors were;

  • polite and courteous behaviour of the advisor answering the phone
  • being reminded of their professional responsibility to report AEs
  • serious AE – nearly all HCPs would report these
  • send back the form quickly: <7days

So what happened once they implemented these changes? A dramatic increase in returned forms from 20% to almost 60% in just 3 months. HCPs also sent them back quicker.

It came as no suprise that Rayna and Stuart won the Impact award. Using clever, dare I say cheap, ways to enhance the safety data, it has to have a direct impact on patient safety. I can’t wait to see Rayna or Stuart present more data at the DIA EU meeting in Nice in October. Must dash – I’m off to buy that book from Amazon!

*Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness. Thaler & Sustein.