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Cognitive Technology for Addiction-It's Time for Action

Thomas Morrow, MD, is the chief medical officer for Next IT. His current position is the culmination of his passion to improve clinical outcomes for people with chronic disease through the use advanced natural language processing and artificial intelligence. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, practiced family medicine for 14 years, and held a variety of positions including a faculty position at a residency and medical school, staff physician at a staff model health maintenance organization, and numerous medical director positions at multiple health plans.
Solutions Must Consider How the Brain Works
It is important that any technology solution becomes so easy to use that it ties into System 1 or “fast brain” thinking. As a quick review:
System 1 thinking is efficient, requires little active thought process, is automatic, rapid, contextualized, intuitive, independent of working memory, and is basically a series of habits or reflexes. This is important because it is estimated that over 95% of our actions do not involve the conscious reasoning or System 2 thinking. 
System 2 thinking (slow brain) is slow, controlled, requires high effort, is rule based, and logical, but is not used much by humans for day-to-day activity as it just takes too much energy and concentration.
Most digital approaches fail in one major way: they require the participant to actively start the engagement and maintain it.  This requires System 2 thinking and humans just don’t like to think!  We know that the easier the process, the more people will flock to it. Think about how other masters of the digital world, such as Amazon, have used System 1 thinking. How could we emulate their amazing results with healthcare?
For one, many populat internet sites use natural language understanding to find the item you are searching for; even if you do not know the exact word to find the article. Amazon also constantly suggests additional items that others usually purchase together under the heading “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” They have created a “Buy now with 1-click” button and are constantly asking you to consider re-purchasing previous purchases as well as asking for feedback on the items you have purchased. All of this helps to drive outcome.
Other popular digital companies, such as Uber, have utilized your actual location (using GPS tracking) as a tool to engage with people with relevant services. Still others, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, have used a social cognitive approach to rapidly grow their companies to massive levels because of the innate human desire to join groups and keep in touch—and they have made it simple by using massive analytic engines in the background.
All of these companies utilize System 1 thinking processes. They make it easy and use the subconscious, emotional, and habit centers of the brain to allow for a more engaging interaction. And these approaches have changed our behavior in a variety of ways.

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