Effect Of Behavioral Economic Incentives For Colorectal Cancer Screening In A Randomized Trial

Abstract [from journal]

Background & aims: Financial incentives might increase participation in prevention such as screening colonoscopy. We studied whether incentives informed by behavioral economics increase participation in risk assessment for colorectal cancer (CRC) and completion of colonoscopy for eligible adults.

Methods: Employees of a large academic health system (50-64 y old; n=1977) were randomly assigned to groups that underwent risk assessment for CRC screening and direct access colonoscopy scheduling (control), or risk assessment, direct access colonoscopy scheduling, a $10 loss-framed incentive to complete risk assessment, and a $25 unconditional incentive for colonoscopy completion (incentive). The primary outcome was the percentage of participants who completed screening colonoscopy within 3 months of initial outreach. Secondary outcomes included the percentage of participants who scheduled colonoscopy and the percentage who completed the risk assessment.

Results: At 3 months, risk assessment was completed by 19.5% of participants in the control group (95% CI: 17.0-21.9%) and 31.9% of participants in the incentive group (95% CI: 29.0-34.8%) (P<.001). At 3 months, 0.7% of controls had completed a colonoscopy (95% CI: .2%-1.2%) compared with 1.2% of subjects in the incentive group (95% CI: .5%-1.9%) (P=.25).

Conclusions: In a randomized trial of participants who underwent risk assessment for CRC with vs without financial incentive, the financial incentive increased CRC risk assessment completion but did not result in a greater completion of screening colonoscopy.