2022 IEEE Int Conf Digit Health IEEE IDCH 2022 (2022). 2022 Jul;2022:13-22. doi: 10.1109/ICDH55609.2022.00010. Epub 2022 Aug 24.
To promote healthy behaviors, many mobile health applications provide message-based interventions, such as tips, motivational messages, or suggestions for healthy activities. Ideally, the intervention policies should be carefully designed so that users obtain the benefits without being overwhelmed by overly frequent messages. As part of the HeartSteps physical-activity intervention, users receive messages intended to disrupt sedentary behavior. HeartSteps uses an algorithm to uniformly spread out the daily message budget over time, but does not attempt to maximize treatment effects. This limitation motivates constructing a policy to optimize the message delivery decisions for more effective treatments. Moreover, the learned policy needs to be interpretable to enable behavioral scientists to examine it and to inform future theorizing. We address this problem by learning an effective and interpretable policy that reduces sedentary behavior. We propose Optimal Policy Trees + (OPT+), an innovative batch off-policy learning method, that combines a personalized threshold learning and an extension of Optimal Policy Trees under a budget-constrained setting. We implement and test the method using data collected in HeartSteps V2/V3. Computational results demonstrate a significant reduction in sedentary behavior with a lower delivery budget. OPT+ produces a highly interpretable and stable output decision tree thus enabling theoretical insights to guide future research.