Behavioral Economics / Behavior Change

The application of principles of economics and psychology to examine how individuals make choices in complex contexts--such as personal finances and health--and to improve these decisions and behaviors.

Individual Versus Team-Based Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity: A Randomized, Controlled Trial

Mar. 22, 2016

Mitesh Patel, David Asch, Roy Rosin, Dylan Small, Scarlett Bellamy, Kimberly Eberbach, Karen Walters, Nancy Haff, Samantha Lee, Lisa Wesby, Karen Hoffer, David Shuttleworth, Devon Taylor, Victoria Hilbert, Jingsan Zhu, Lin Yang, Xingmei Wang, Kevin Volpp

In the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Mitesh Patel and colleagues, including David Asch, Roy Rosin, Dylan Small and Kevin Volpp, compare the effectiveness of individual versus team-based financed incentives for increasing physical activity. Patel and colleagues conducted a randomized, controlled trial testing three interventions with more than 300 adults organized into 76 four-member teams. All participants received daily feedback on progress towards achieving a daily 7000- step goal during the intervention and follow-up periods, each 13 weeks. The control arm received no...

Habit formation in children: Evidence from incentives for healthy eating

Mar. 14, 2016

George Loewenstein, Joseph Price, Kevin Volpp

In the Journal of Health Economics, George Loewenstein and colleagues, including Kevin Volpp, examine the role of incentives in promoting healthy eating behaviors in children. The investigators conducted a field experiment at 40 elementary schools involving 8,000 children and 400,000 child-day observations, which tested whether providing short-run incentives can create habit formation in children. Over a 3- or 5-week period, students received an incentive (a token worth $0.25 that could be used at school store, carnival or book fair) for eating a serving of fruits or vegetables...

NEJM Catalyst Event Tackles Patient Behavior Change

Feb. 27, 2016

Editor’s note: Last week, NEJM Catalyst and the University of Pennsylvania Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Leonard Davis Institute (LDI CHIBE) hosted a live event and webcast on “Patient Engagement: Behavioral Strategies for Better Health.” In it, event Chair Kevin Volpp described the successful health system of the future that would feature  value-based provider payments and

Using Behavioral Economics to Design Physician Incentives That Deliver High-Value Care

Feb. 17, 2016

Ezekiel Emanuel, Peter Ubel, Judd Kessler, Ralph Muller, Amol Navathe, Pankaj Patel, Robert Pearl, Meredith Rosenthal, Lee Sacks, Aditi Sen, Paul Sherman, Kevin Volpp

In Annals of Internal Medicine, Ezekiel Emanuel and colleagues, including Judd Kessler, Ralph Muller, Amol Nayathe, and Kevin Volpp, discuss several principles of behavior economics, including inertia, loss aversion, choice overload, and relative social ranking. Designing physician incentives based on behavioral economics principles can improve their effectiveness through better alignment with performance goals. The study includes anecdotal examples of successful incentive programs that apply behavioral economics principles. Though the effectiveness of behavioral economic-based...

A behavioral economics intervention to increase pertussis vaccination among infant caregivers: A randomized feasibility trial

Feb. 17, 2016

Alison Buttenheim, Alexander Fiks, Randall Burson, Eileen Wang, Susan Coffin, Joshua Metlay, Kristen Feemster

In Vaccine, Alison Buttenheim and colleagues, including Alexander Fiks and Kristen Feemster, evaluate the feasibility and impact of interventions informed by behavioral economics to increase Tdap vaccination among caregivers of young infants. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: discount voucher, free voucher, informational support and no informational support. Tdap vaccination was assessed by tracking voucher redemption and following up with participants by phone. Only 1 subject out of a total of 95 participants redeemed the retail pharmacy Tdap voucher...

Move It Or Lose It

Feb. 16, 2016

The latest study by LDI Senior Fellow Mitesh Patel and colleagues adds to our growing understanding of how best to frame financial incentives to encourage healthy behaviors, and employer wellness managers should take note.

Effect of Financial Incentives to Physicians, Patients, or Both on Lipid Levels: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Research Brief
Jan. 15, 2016

To whom should financial incentives be targeted to achieve a desired clinical or health outcome—physicians or patients? Using insight from behavioral economics, a research team led by LDI Senior Fellows David Asch and Kevin Volpp sought to determine whether physician financial incentives, patient incentives, or shared physician and patient incentives are more effective in promoting medication adherence and reducing cholesterol levels of patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Though physician and patient incentives are becoming more common, they are rarely combined, and effectiveness of these approaches is not well-established. This study offers insight into what incentive structure leads to the greatest impact on health promotion. 

Employers Take Note: Premium-Based Incentives For Weight Loss Don't Work

Jan. 5, 2016

A new study casts doubt on the effectiveness of reducing health insurance premiums as a way to encourage employees to lose weight. LDI Senior Fellow Mitesh Patel and his team, in a randomized controlled trial, test the effectiveness of a $550 incentive in promoting weight loss in obese employees. They found no difference in weight loss over the course of one year between the control group and three different kinds of incentive programs.

Mapping Activity Patterns to Quantify Risk of Violent Assault in Urban Environments

Dec. 18, 2015

Douglas Wiebe, Therese Richmond, Wensheng Guo, Paul Allison, Judd Hollander, Michael Nance, Charles Branas

In Epidemiology, Douglas Wiebe and colleagues, including Therese Richmond and Charles Branas, investigated the interplay between urban youth’s lived experiences, time spent in different environments, and risk of violent assault. The researchers mapped activity paths of 10- to 24-year olds, comparing community controls, emergency department patients assaulted with a firearm, and patients assaulted with another type of weapon. Through interviews, the investigators created a record of how, when, where and with whom subjects spent time over a full day. Tracing back activities through...

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