Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics News Archive

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"Loss Incentive" Motivates Employees to Take More Steps

Sources: The New York Times, Forbes, TIMEPhiladelphia Inquirer, Reuters, FortuneMedpage Today, Newswise, STAT, ACSHLDI Blog, Penn Medicine, February 16, 2016; Penn Current March 24, 2016

A study lead by Mitesh Patel, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, gave 281 overweight and obese participants a goal of 7,000 steps per day for 13 weeks. Participants were randomized to one of three incentive groups with daily feedback, a gain incentive ($1.40 for each day goal was met); lottery incentive (daily eligibility if goal was achieved); or loss incentive ($42 allocated monthly upfront and $1.40 removed each day goal was not achieved) or a control group with daily feedback. They found that financial incentives framed as a loss were most effective for achieving physical activity goals.

Tags: Mitesh Patel

How Might Wearables Transform Health Care Delivery?

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, January 20, 2017

Mitesh Patel speaks with the Inquirer about the possibilities and limitations of wearables in transforming health care delivery.

Tags: Mitesh Patel

Financial Incentives and Opportunities to Donate to Charity Increase Physical Activity in Older Adults

Source: Reuters, Penn Medicine News, Medical Xpress, January 13, 2017

Personal and social goals may be effective in motivating older adults to exercise, according to a study this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine from CHIBE researchers Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH and Jason Karlawish, MD.  In a 16 week period, both financial incentives and opportunity to donate to charity increased walking in older adults, by 2,348 steps and 2,562 steps per day, respectively.

This study is among the first few studies looking at the effectiveness of financial incentives in improving health behavior in older adults, and helps address some limitations of earlier studies.

Can Fitness Trackers Work Miracles?

Source: USA Today, January 8, 2017

In a USA Today article, CHIBE affiliated faculty member, Mitesh Patel, MD, MBA, MS is interviewed on the effectiveness of new fitness trackers, such as the Apple Watch, on reaching daily step count goals. Dr. Patel speaks to the importance of setting personal, realistic goals, rather than trying to reach 10,000 steps a day immediately.

Tags: Mitesh Patel

Kevin Volpp: How to Keep Your Fitness New Year's Resolution Without Breaking the Bank

Source: New York Magazine, January 6, 2017

New York Magazine interviews CHIBE Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD for evidence-based tips on sticking to fitness and weight loss goals in the New Year. Volpp tells the magazine: "When it comes to forming a habit, enjoyment is more significant than how much money you spend. The money can be well-spent or not well-spent depending on whether you persist in the activity you’re paying for.”

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Medicare Bundled Payments for Joint Replacements Incentivize Care Coordination and Cut Costs

Source: Kaiser Health News,, Science Daily, News Medical, Stat On Call, Healio, McKnight's, Nephrology News, Managed Care Magazine, Medscape, Benefits Pro, Becker's Hospital Review, Fierce Healthcare, Beloit Daily News, Managed Healthcare Executive, January 3, 2017

Bundled payment models can push Medicare and health system costs down considerably without sacrificing quality of care, according to new research from Amol Navathe, MD, PhD. The study, the first to combine hospital cost and Medicare claims data to identify drivers of joint replacement cost savings – evaluated costs and care quality at for hip and knee replacements performed from 2008-2015 at the five-hospital Baptist Health System (BHS) network in San Antonio, Texas. Results, published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, show that the average cost dropped 20.8 percent while the effect on quality of care was unchanged or improved.

Interviewed by Kaiser Health News, Navathe described the impact of bundled payments on clinician behavior: “Preplanning, setting of expectations and communicating up-front is resource intensive, when they have the incentive to do that they were willing to expend the extra resources to make that happen.”

Tags: Amol Navathe

CHIBE Behavioral Economics Symposium Closes Seven-Year Research Program

Source: LDI eMagazine, January 3, 2017

The University of Pennsylvania LDI Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics' 2016 Behavioral Economics and Health Symposium was both a spotlight on the latest research work as well as the conclusion of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Donaghue Foundation funded program that began seven years ago. CHIBE played a lead role in the initiative whose goal was to explore the ways behavioral economics principles might be applied to health-related behaviors.

Heather Schofield Explains How Mental Bandwidth Impacts Poverty

Source: Knowledge@Wharton, December 28, 2016

In a recent American Economic Review paper, Heather Schofield, PhD reviews research on cognitive bandwidth and how it may affect the psychology around poverty. Schofield tells Knowledge@Wharton, "There are often stereotypes of people who make bad choices, and we’re really trying to understand what’s driving that. Is it the person or their circumstances?” 

Kit Delgado Discusses Research on Smartphone Breathalyzers

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, December 22, 2016

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, CHIBE's Kit Delgado, MD, MS describes his recent work investigating the potential of smartphone breathalyzers to reduce drunk driving accidents. He discusses an upcoming study testing behavioral strategies to increase the effectiveness of this new technology. Delgado says, "Like exercise trackers and other connected devices, smartphone-paired Breathalyzers can act as a facilitator of healthy behavior change. However, without a behavioral strategy to promote continued engagement aimed at promoting better health or safety, people will stop using these devices over time. I’m interested in testing behavioral strategies that leverage smartphone Breathalyzers with the ultimate goal of reducing drunk-driving crashes."

Can Libraries Improve Health?

Source: BBC World Service, December 6, 2016

Carolyn Cannuscio, ScD, CHIBE-affiliated faculty member and director of research at the Center for Public Health Initiatives, was interviewed by BBC Radio about a new partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia that trains library staff into community health partners.

CHIBE's Academic Home Launches Penn's First Online Master's Degree

Source: Penn Medicine News, November 30, 2016

The Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine has announced the launch of a new online Master of Health Care Innovation - the first online Master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

The degree program is an initiative to address the rapidly changing health care landscape by advancing innovation among mid-career health care professionals worldwide.  A selective cohort will engage in an 18-month program of online education led by faculty from the Perelman School of Medicine, the Wharton School, the Law School, and the Nursing School, including CHIBE Director Kevin Volpp. The program will also include two week-long sessions in Philadelphia. Learn more at

Tags: Kevin Volpp

George Loewenstein Talks 'Information Avoidance' and Bad Decisions

Source: Devex, November 23, 2016

CHIBE's George Loewenstein was interviewed by global development media platform, Devex, on his research on information avoidance, wherein individuals choose not to know information even though it is free and could improve their decision-making. Loewenstein describes how information avoidance can explain poor choices, and how this knowledge can be used to inform development policy. 

Information avoidance can also offer insight into increasingly polarized views on science. Loewenstein told Devex that "as science develops and new forms of data and data analysis capabilities emerge, you might think this would lead to convergence about scientific issues, but it’s not happening. If anything, the opposite is true." 

Why Aren't More Doctors Using Patient Engagement Tools?

Source: Medical Economics, November 9, 2016

Modern Medicine reports on a new study by CHIBE Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, showing that 69 percent of health care providers are using patient engagement to get patients more involved in their own care, while that number should be closer to 100 percent. "Achieving sustained behavioral change requires doctors to be involved in the day-to-day lives of their patients, not just during the patient’s appointments—and the most effective way doctors can do this is by utilizing patient engagement tools,” Volpp says.

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Kevin Volpp Research Cited in Medical Resident Work Hour Debate

Source: Forbes, November, 8, 2016

A Forbes article addresses an ongoing debate around work hour limits imposed on medical and surgical residents and cites a 2012 study led by CHIBE Director, Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, which found that cognitive performance of residents increased with protected sleep times.

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Mitesh Patel Comments on Value of Wearable Fitness Trackers

Source: Time, November 2, 2016

Time magazine interviewed Mitesh Patel, MD, MBA, MS to hear his take on the value of the new Apple Watch and other wearables for tracking fitness activity.

"Patel says wearables are most useful for consumers who are already focused on their fitness. Simply giving someone a new gizmo isn’t enough to change behaviors in a sustained way, particularly if the user has low motivation to begin with."

Tags: Mitesh Patel

CHIBE Holds Largest-Ever Penn-CMU Roybal Retreat & Conference

Source: Penn LDI eMagazine, November 2, 2016

On October 27 and 28, 2016, CHIBE held its ninth and largest-ever retreat of scientists collaborating through its ongoing NIH P30 Center of Excellence Roybal research program. The Penn-CMU Roybal Center is a partnership between the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) at the Leonard Davis Institute and CMU's Center for Behavioral and Decision Research (CBDR). Also attending were affiliated scientists from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Duke, NYU, Fordham, Rutgers and Case Western.

Optimizing Electronic Health Records with Behavioral Economics

Source: Forbes, October, 25, 2016

In an op-ed for Forbes, Mitesh Patel, MD, MBA, MS discusses the application of behavioral economics principles to electronic health records (EHRs), particularly in relation to generic prescriptions in light of increasing drug costs.

Dr. Patel says "Because EHRs have become ubiquitous, how they are designed impacts people across the country—for better or for worse. Behavioral modifications to the EHR interface can ensure that more patients are prescribed the lower-cost generic option when it is available."

Tags: Mitesh Patel

Way to Health Featured at CHOP mHealth Project Showcases

Source: CHOP Cornerstone

The CHIBE-developed mobile health platform, Way to Health, was featured in two recent mHealth project showcases held at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. CHOP Cornerstone reports: 

"The Way to Health platform made multiple appearances at the mHealth Project Showcase. This Penn-developed technology includes a mobile-friendly web-based platform that automates healthy behavior interventions, leverages remote monitoring technology, and capitalizes on behavioral economics principles. The technology is in use in studies assessing text-message reminders for adherence to asthma medication (tracked via a smart sensor on the inhaler), a study of post-operative walking in adults (tracked with a wearable fitness tracker), and the BE in CONTROL study of glycemic control behaviors of youth with Type 1 diabetes. Way to Health continues to take on new projects and studies and is expanding into the clinical realm."

Short-Term Incentives Yield Longer-Term Healthful Eating Habits in Children

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Fox5NY, October 17, 2016

In a study published in the Journal of Health Economics this year, George Loewenstein, Joseph Price and Kevin Volpp presented findings from a field experiment testing whether short-run incentives can create habit formation in children. Over a 3- or 5-week period, students received an incentive for eating a serving of fruits or vegetables during lunch. The study found that providing small incentives doubled the fraction of children eating at least one serving of fruits or vegetables. Two months after the end of the intervention, the consumption rate at schools remained 21% above baseline for the 3-week treatment and 44% above baseline for the 5-week treatment. These findings indicate that short-run incentives can produce changes in behavior that persist after incentives are removed.

Mitesh Patel: Further Study Needed on Reliability of Heart Rate Wearables

Source: US News & World Report, October 13, 2016

CHIBE's Mitesh Patel, MD, MBA, MS comments in U.S. News & World Report about a recent study showing that watch-like wristbands that monitor heart rate may not offer true readings during exercise. Patel, who was not involved in the research, said, "further study is needed to determine which devices are more reliable for use in clinical care."

Tags: Mitesh Patel