When someone has set an intention to make a change such as “I want to try a new treatment” or “I want to take my medicine more regularly”, they inherently believe that the anticipated benefits of that change outweigh costs.  But behavioral science tells us that even the strongest beliefs about the value of change don’t necessarily lead to action.  So that means that even when a communicator has successfully earned their audience’s attention, and convinced them change is ‘worth it’, the outcome may still be elusive.  

To amplify motivation and cross the threshold from intention to action, communicators can leverage the fact that we are driven to meet our emotional and social needs in predictable ways.  One easy way to do this is to look for opportunities that align an audience’s goals with the human drive to seek out:

  • Prestige and positive feelings associated with being admired. This could be leveraged by giving the audience opportunities to influence others, to elevate their social standing and to be recognized. 
  • Personal achievement and satisfaction that competition brings. This could be leveraged by reframing goals into mini challenges which are rewarded upon completion.  
  • Affiliation and satisfaction associated with interaction with others.  


Let’s take a look at one of the best examples for sparking action: the Apple Watch – a wearable smartwatch. In recent years, the successful application of neuroscience in motivating behavior change has come into full view for consumers through the Apple Watch. By tracking an individual’s performance against their goals, rewarding progress with personal record badges, and giving them the opportunity to see the achievement of friends they choose to add, Apple has done a fantastic job activating the human desire for prestige, achievement, and affiliation. And in return it helps to get consumers to be more active and achieve a healthier lifestyle.

But this kind of CX strategy is not just for consumers; we can motivate behavior change and spark action with HCPs as well. Through KOL activation, we can help give HCPs a feeling of prestige as a subject matter expert in their field. We commonly see this done by incorporating elements of gamification to add a little fun into their experience as they try to complete challenges with (or even against) their peers to demonstrate their understanding of a particular topic. To understand how gamified experiences exist in the real world, we spoke to several CX team members at GSW to gather the best examples: 

Bryan Duffy, VP CX Strategy: “The best examples of gamification for HCPs were at conventions: content woven into a competition or challenge type of experience that is fun, but also educational. I’ve seen it done well in a few different ways, such as arcade style games, physical puzzle games like Scrabble or crosswords, and an actual escape room built as part of the booth, where you had to find the clues to diagnose the patient to “escape”. Higher tech like augmented reality could be leveraged in fun ways for gamification as well, with a treasure hunt type of experience similar to Pokemon Go, earning points or badges for finding different clues or content throughout the booth using AR markers. Conventions are a great setting for these because it helps break up the “work” of the weekend a little bit for HCPs and taps into their competitive natures. Plus, if they enjoy the game, they’ll tell their colleagues to go play, which in turn drives traffic!”

Jim Ruiz, SVP CX Strategy – MarTech:The New England Journal of Medicine Image Challengeis a really good example of gamification with HCPs. The challenge pits HCPs against each other. They are all very bright, competitive people and they like anything that lets them show how smart they are when it comes to medicine. One of the best ways to engage HCPs is to challenge their intellect. Through this challenge, links are sent out to each HCP by email and the responses are tracked live on the web. Within an hour of sending out they would have thousands upon thousands of responses. It was so popular they made an app from it."

Joe DeSalvo, SVP Advanced Analytics:  “An area to consider is the emerging virtual Rep + HCP interaction – where demonstration of understanding may provide benefit. Yext (Typically focused on Online Brand Management) has a training path (Yext Hitchhikers) which gamifies learning about their tool through modules (providing badges and status). Going through a branded education system like that for a launch brand might offer perks, such as internal referrals, priority access to samples, regional KOL dinner invitations and/or progression to advisory councils and speaking engagements.”

About the Author:

Kathleen Starr, PhD, is the Managing Director, Behavioral Science & Insights at Syneos Health.

With a 10 year background in CPG program planning and execution, including 6 years on Unilever as a CX & CRM Center of Excellence lead, Lisa brings advanced digital experience to healthcare. For the past year at GSW, Lisa has worked as a lead engagement strategist to develop groundbreaking innovations for clients, including conversational marketing automation strategies and the launch of the highly successful Edwards LifeSciences Virtual Assistant (Chatbot).