According to Dr. Kreuter, the behaviors that are the easiest to change are the ones that are: simple, repeated, support social norms, and have both certain and immediate benefits to the individual performing the behavior change.
It turns out that many of the desired behaviors are easy; and, for the most part, habitual, such as performing hand hygiene or receiving a flu shot. The challenge lies in the fact that many of these behavior changes are beneficial to others more than the individual performing them. Conversely, the consequences are also experienced by someone else if they are not performed sufficiently. Dr. Kreuter explained, “It’s not as if the patient turns green and crumples up the moment you touch them with an unwashed hand.” The consequences are not always immediate, and, therefore, these yield low accountability.
In order to overcome these challenges, one must “identify meaningful benefits to the person engaging in the behavior,” said Dr. Kreuter. Trying to personalize the consequences for the person performing the behavior and changing professional norms will also help. Dr. Kreuter stressed that the motivation for engaging in a behavioral change will vary from person to person. He said, “We should never assume that our reason for doing a behavior (prevention!) or caring about it, is what is going to motivate people to act. Do we want people to do the behavior for our reasons or do we want [them] to do the behavior? I think it’s the latter.”