The Power of Habit

How’s that New Year’s resolution going so far? Still carrying those extra 10, 15 or 20 pounds?

Certainly, if we resolve to do something and put all of our effort behind it, we should be able to do it, right? This type of “free will” is a great part of our traditional view of how we change or conduct our lives and business.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.

I recently read an opinion piece by David Brooks in the New York Times that highlighted a book written by Charles Duhigg called “The Power of Habit.” In the book, Duhigg, who’s also a reporter at the Times, explores research about how our habits determine our actions.

As much as we think free will overcomes all, much of our actions and behaviors are driven by unconscious habits. Duhigg notes that researchers at Duke University calculated that 40% of our actions are governed by habit, not by conscious decisions.

So much for free will!

According to Brooks’ article, researchers have also come to know the structure of habits. Cue, routine, reward is how habits become ingrained.

Duhigg highlights several examples of how people have learned to replace bad habits with good ones, or create new habits.

From the routine use of toothpaste to football coaches creating practice drills to Starbucks baristas, creation of habits will dictate how one responds to a situation even more quickly and routinely.

Changing your neural network not merely based on forming routine or common triggers. These are instead fortified by emotions and strong desires, like the commitment to a higher purpose or gaining admiration.

What does this have to do with Henry Ford Hospital? 

We are going through a world class service training exercise called by the mnemonic, AIDET (Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, Thanks).

The habit that we wish to create is a common greeting and dialogue that forms the basis of our service culture.

I have heard from many that say they already do this in their patient interactions. Me too, except sometimes I do A, I and E, or I, D and T, but not the habit of routinely doing all the elements. I have a hunch you are no different.

What we hope to achieve is that we all form a habit of AIDET, each time, every patient, every encounter.

Our emotional reinforcement to AIDET is greater satisfaction with  patient encounters, for ourselves and our patients.

We need to do this until it becomes an unconscious act created by the cue of a patient interaction, a routine interaction with AIDET, and the reward of how patients (and we as providers) will benefit from the positive responses of our patients.

And for those with lingering New Year’s resolutions to lose weight: Put those running shorts and shoes on the floor at night so they will cue your activities in the morning, then substitute a walk for the cue of snack craving, and brush your teeth twice a day.



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One thought on “The Power of Habit

  1. Dr. Popovich,

    Thank you for supporting our AIDET communication and service transformation.


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