Can online communities help drive completion of intervention programs?

People increasingly understand that they must take an active role in their own health and wellness. The industry, meanwhile, knows that prevention is possibly the greatest means for controlling costs. Intervention programs are one tool being looked at to help achieve both aims.

The challenge is that, while effective, in-person programs in which providers are tasked with helping people lose weight or quit smoking can be expensive and inconvenient. They are also limited to the number of people the provider can actually support, not a scalable scenario. Online programs could be a solution.

So far, trials for such web-based alternatives have been promising, but hampered by low completion rates. One recent study found that about 25 percent of participants in a managed trial abandoned, while more than 65 percent quit the free, open-access online program.

The answer, some suggest, may be in online communities. Such environments permit users to communicate with each other, helping sustain inspiration and motivation, while offering them additional forms of content designed to promote program completion.

In another study, this one at the University of Michigan, they tested that premise with a two-tiered online walking program. One group had access to online community content and support. Nearly 80 percent of this group finished. The second group had no access, with nearly 20 percent fewer completing the program.

Questions remain, including how to pay for developing and managing such communities. Ensuring these communities address and support the many languages that make up today’s patient population is another.

Till next time,
Steve
viaLanguage


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