TECHNOLOGY AND BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTIONS

Given the advantages associated with technology such as broader reach to target populations, flexibility in intervention delivery modes, and potential cost savings, technology is increasingly being used to deliver behavioral interventions to a wide variety of populations. By way of definition, behavioral intervention technologies (BITs) are generally referred to as “. . . the application of behavioral and psychological intervention strategies through the use of technology features to address behavioral, cognitive and affective targets that support physical, behavioral and mental health” (Mohr et al., 2013, p. 332). BITs can significantly contribute to behavioral intervention research by providing new and innovative means for delivering interventions, increasing access to these interventions, and providing the means for the development of novel interventions such as those that involve multimedia formats or robotic applications (e.g., cognitive coaching to support memory; see Czaja, 2015).

BITs include the use of a broad range of technologies such as telephone/ videoconferencing, mobile devices, Web-based interventions, wearable technologies (e.g., FitBit), and robotic devices to implement intervention strategies such as selfassessment and self-monitoring, psychoeducation, peer support goal setting, skill building and education, goal setting, and feedback (Mohr et al., 2013). Imbedded in our definition is an important distinction: technologies are typically used to deliver an intervention but are usually not the mechanism for behavior change. For example, Irvine and colleagues (2013) used the Internet to deliver an intervention, Active After 55, to enhance functional ability, mobility, and physical activity of sedentary older adults. The intervention was based on the theory of planned behavior, was designed to provide information and support, and included general assistance, tailored assistance and feedback, self-assessment, and general information, combined within a gain-framed messaging framework. The investigators found that those who received the intervention experienced gains in engagement in physical activities, self-efficacy, and quality of life as well as fewer perceived barriers to exercise. We (Czaja et al., 2013) used videophone technology to deliver a modified version of the REACH II multicomponent, psychosocial intervention (Belle et al., 2006) to minority family caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Caregivers who received the intervention reported less burden, higher social support, and more positive feelings about caregiving. They also found the technology to be acceptable and usable. In these examples, BITs provided a means to intervention delivery but were not the mechanism of the actual behavioral change.

The following sections of this chapter provide specific examples of the types of technologies frequently used in intervention delivery and the types of interventions being delivered via these technologies.

 
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