Making it social – exploring gendered motivations #medx

In this weeks presentation in the MedX course “Patient Engagement Design” Dennis Boyle from IDEO gave a brief presentation on designing tips for patient engagement. Unfortunately, the video clip does not appear to be available outside of the course shell – so I cannot link to it directly in this post. You can see the video by signing up for the course (linked above).

First, I want to highlight that in the video example of the development of the Automated External Defibrillator they did a series of iterative user tests. They built something, tried it out, and watched as people used it. They collected that information and re-designed based upon user experience. They did this multiple times before they had a successful project. An important part of design is iteration.

The second part I wanted to mention is surrounding the discussion of ‘making it social’. Boyle talks about the importance of having a social aspect to the design. This goes back to my earlier comments about the need for theories based upon social-constructivist learning rather than behaviourist learning (last weeks post).

What isn’t mentioned is the gendered motivations behind the examples he gave. He gave two examples of making it social – one that was competition based and the other that was community based. In the competition based example, he was drawing on a more male approach to motivation (competition). Note that I’m not saying only men like competition, just that if your primary audience is male, then a competition-based motivator may be more appealing than if your audience is primarily female. In my household this plays out in our choice of cycle tracking apps. I use an app that allows me to track my personal achievements and post them to my social networks. I’m not competing with anyone but myself – and it is personal achievement that motivates me. My husband uses a social app that compares each segment of his commute with others that are riding that segment. He gets ranked for each segment of his ride based upon other people who have ridden that segment. He is motivate to get a higher ranking – so motivated to ride faster to get a higher rank – that doesn’t interest me at all!

In the second example of being social he showed a desire for people to connect with one another on a shared journey. This appeals more to women – it is a female approach to motivation. If you looked at the examples, all the people he showed were women.

When designing an app to support patient engagement, I think it is important to understand your audience and what motivates them. Appreciating that there are differences among gender lines – and if your primary audience is female, then you need to design your ‘social’ aspect along female gender lines (belonging, community) versus when your audience is primarily male (competition).

From a healthcare perspective I hypothesize that there is also a difference between preventative and critical illness. In the prevention the gender role will play a larger  role in successful implementation. In the critical illness role, I believe that competition is less imperative, and that community is more important. But that is my opinion … what do you think?


3 responses

  1. scottx5 Avatar

    I take my experience from the mixture of deliberate choice and happenstance that finds me with a 100% female “care team” and no happier for it really. Every single person looking after my heart and cancer are women but the failure of my theory that women are somehow more caring is continually wrecked by 80% at least who are simple servants of the organization. Though I do not doubt that women think differently, within the context of their roles, they do seem more adapted to organizational life than men and that doesn’t help me at all. I don’t need people good at their job descriptions I need them good at their jobs.

    As I find organizational arrangements abstractions at best, I’m not going to claim that I’m unbiased. The gender thing also might look nice on my resume as a modern cosmopolitan guy buy really most of my care givers are as ambitious and dismissive of me as the average stupid white male doctors who have caused me grief in the past. In fact, because I’m a difficult and uncooperative male patient it may be that the glossy coating falls off everyone who deals with me, male or female. But women find me most offensive because I’m mistrustful of everyone. That does not make me smarter than them only it violates a rule that when they say “we are only here to help” it’s apparently my duty to not back-talk or exhibit other “childish” antics. Really, I’m content to be treated as person who needs their help but not if it diminishes me and this urge to smother people with doctor’ly kindness wears poorly on both genders and I suspect encouraged in training.

    Fortunately, in the reversal of authority roles Leslie can come with me and talk nice with the doctors and I can be the dumb husband:-) Like today when I had to leave a consultation with a female doctor who I found condescending, dismissive and belittling of my concerns.

    Rebecca, I think you are right about the threat level of the illness affecting the medical conversation. I can’t be motivated by gentile and reassuring talk, I’m beyond that. The whole idea of behavior modification is especially disrespectful to a person who has a genetically caused illness anyway. What am I supposed to do about it trying to survive by already NOT doing things that directly endanger me? I know the medicos think cooperating with them is the path to wellness while the clear-headed skepticism of Leslie remaining UN-cooperative has saved my life twice while doctors looked by in clueless wonderment.

    Sorry to say I’ve given up on Patient Engagement. The analysis of motivation is as shallow and Pavlovian as daytime TV. It might be that good intentions are behind the class but it’s obvious from hype loaded discourse that we are watching entertainment–or maybe they can no longer tell the difference at Stanford?

  2. Maha Bali Avatar

    Loved this, made sense to me 🙂 I wonder, though, why ever anyone would think of using competition in patient engagement setting. Then again, I’m a girl! But I also enjoy competition; just not sure how it would work in that context. Can you explain more?

    1. Rebecca Avatar

      Good question. If you think of patient engagement in terms of getting patients to exercise more – that is to take more ownership of their physical fitness – then competition might be a useful motivating factor. Many recreational athletes use competition as a motivator to stay in shape – so the idea is that introducing social apps that involve friendly competition helps to motivate patients to get more exercise. If that is the goal of the engagement, then the aspect of competition might be useful. I just don’t think it is particularly useful for women … as we are typically less motivated by competition – rather, we are more apt to exercise if it involves getting together with others – so we are more motivated by group aerobics at the gym because it is a community type experience. Of course those are generalizations – but they are important generalizations to consider when you are designing something for a specific target audience.

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