What healthcare can learn from Uber

Uber’s company structure differs from others in that it treats its drivers as contracted workers rather than employees.  While this reduces its labour costs, it means that Uber cannot dictate hours to its workers.  Instead, they must employ a series of behavioural tools to get drivers to work when they want them to work. 

Techniques include encouraging drivers to set ‘earning goals’ and alerting them when they are close to reaching these goals or by showing drivers their next potential fare before even finishing their current ride.  This feature works much like Netflix in regard to how it queues up the next program automatically, making it easier to keep watching rather than turning off Netflix. 

On the Uber app, drivers would see messages that say, ‘You’re $10 away from earning $X, are you sure you want to log off?’ Drivers are then presented the choices:  ‘Go offline’ or ‘Keep driving’ (with the latter highlighted as the default option).

These same strategies can be used to increase patient compliance.  For example, patients can receive text messages reminding them to take their medication at specific times.  Likewise, they can receive reminders when they are running low on a prescription.  The message could resemble the one described previously, ‘You have 3 days left before your prescription runs out.  Would you like to refill now?’ (with the default option ‘Refill’ highlighted). 

Nudging can also be applied to other aspects of the healthcare industry such as encouraging patients to complete a course of treatment, to receive all stages of a vaccination, or to return for a follow-up visit.  Nudging seems so simple, yet it can be a powerful tool.