Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics News Archive

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Penn-CMU Roybal Center on Behavioral Economics and Health.

We are pleased to announce that the Center was a recipient of one of 12 Roybal Center awards in 2009 from the National Institute on Aging (Volpp PI, Loewenstein Co-PI).  The Roybal Centers Program was established to translate promising social and behavioral basic research findings into programs, tools, practices and policies that will improve the lives of older adults.  The aims of the Penn-CMU Roybal Center on Behavioral Economics and Health will be to leverage resources to advance translation of behavioral economic concepts to improve health behaviors and health care delivery and work with public and private sector entities to design and test scalable interventions and disseminate findings.  Please stay tuned for new pilot project solicitations in the coming years as well as information about other new programs.

Recovery Act Research and Research Infrastructure “Grand Opportunities” Award.

A team of investigators from LDI CHIBE (Asch and Volpp, Mult PIs) competed successfully for a two year Grand Opportunity award from the National Institute on Aging that will be pivotal to building CHIBE's research infrastructure.  The project, “Developing Interactive Technologies to Improve Research and Health Behavior,” will support Center investigators in designing, building, testing and refining an IT platform that will: 1) provide investigators an easily customized web-based platform to test behavioral interventions to promote health, including the use of financial incentives, frequent feedback, visual approaches to information, and social networks; 2) provide older Americans, other members of the general public, and public and private sector organizations with a web portal which can facilitate participation in innovative research on behavioral approaches to improve health behavior at low incremental cost.

Rachel Werner Receives Prestigious National Award for Research

Rachel Werner, MD, PhD, an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Core Investigator at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP), and staff physician at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center (PVAMC), received the Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting on June 28, 2009. This prestigious award recognizes scholars early in their careers as health services researchers who show exceptional promise for future contributions.

Enticing People Towards Healthier Behaviors

CHIBE faculty members Mark Pauly, Kevin Volpp and George Loewenstein describe studies they have conducted on financial incentives for smoking cessation, weight loss and medication adherence and the promises these approaches hold for modifying behavior and reducing health care spending.

The Commonwealth Fund Cites Collaborative Efforts of CHIBE Researchers and General Electric in Searching for Scientific Evidence that Incentives to Improve Health Behavior Can Be Effective

Unlike prior studies evaluating smoking cessation that paid small financial incentives for smokers to quit, this large-scale study offered larger financial incentives and evaluated long-term smoking cessation rates.  General Electric will be implementing an incentive-based program at its worksites similar to that employed by the study in anticipation that the company will save money in the long term due to increased productivity, lower absenteeism and lower health care costs.

Employers and Insurers Utilizing Behavioral Economics to Motivate Healthy Changes

The use of incentives to increase people’s success in achieving smoking cessation, weight loss, medication adherence and completion of health risk assessments have been tested in randomized controlled trials by CHIBE researchers, and some of these strategies are now being put into practice by employers and insurers.

Employers Increasingly Offering Incentive-Based Approaches to Improve the Health of Their Workers

CHIBE Director Kevin Volpp weighed in on the use of incentive programs and highlighted that careful assessment of the degree to which such approaches have a lasting impact on health is needed and encouraged employers to track their results carefully.

Tags: Kevin Volpp

A New Strategy to Improve Quality: Rewarding Actions Rather than Measures

Rachel Werner, MD, PhD and a colleague from Rush University Medical Center argue in favor of providing incentives for actions taken to improve medical care quality and health, not simply changes in scores on poorly associated national quality measures, in a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Calorie Labeling Legislation May Not Prove Effective at Tackling Obesity

Source:  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 29, 2009

According to George Loewenstein, Julie Downs and graduate student Jessica Wisdom at Carnegie Mellon University, part of the problem is that it is much easier to overeat than to eat well. Changes need to occur to make eating well easier and cheaper. When eating healthy is easier and eating unhealthy is harder, then people will choose the healthier foods.

Why All-Inclusive Vacations Pay Off

The brain’s pain centers are activated when a person needs to pay each thing by itself. George Loewenstein says that when everything is in a package, people are not forced to think about the money they are spending as much, so those pain centers are not activated and they are able to relax more.

Financial Incentives Increase Long-Term Smoking Cessation Rates, Find CHIBE Investigators

Sources: Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2009Associated Press, September 10, 2009; Bloomberg, February 11, 2009; USA Today, February 11, 2009; Science News; WebMD, February 11, 2009; Reuters, February 11, 2009; US News & World Report, February 12, 2009; BBC News, February 11, 2009; WSJ Health Blog, february 11, 2009; Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2009; Scientific American, February 11, 2009; Irish Times, February 11, 2009. Also, Listen to a BBC Radio interview about this study with Dr. Kevin Volpp, the study's lead author, by clicking on this link:podcast.  

A large-scale study published in the February 12, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine showed that an incentive worth up to $750 resulted in a tripling in long-term quit rates among 878 employees at General Electric. 

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Copayment Increase Associated with Gaps in Heart Medication Use in a Group of Veterans

Sources: Washington Post, January 12, 2009; USA Today, January 12, 2009; Forbes, January 12, 2009.  The study was cited by Senator Patty Murray at the VA Secretary Senate Confirmation hearing on January 14, 2009, CSPAN.

Jalpa Doshi, PhD and a team which included three other CHIBE researchers published results in the journal Circulation on a quasi-experimental study comparing lipid-lowering medication adherence in patients before and after the 2002 copayment increase at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.

Tags: Jalpa Doshi

Incentives Motivate Weight Loss

New research conducted by a team of researchers from LDI CHIBE is featured in stories that aired on more than 130 CBS, ABC, NCB and Fox News affiliates across the country, including New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit and Las Vegas as well as on Good Morning America. The team, led by Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, and George Loewenstein, PhD, published findings in the December 10, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that financial incentives are helpful in motivating people to lose weight. For a summary of the research, see the Carnegie Mellon University homepage.

Moral Hazard the Top Story in December 2008 Journal of Health Economics

Source: Journal of Health Economics, December, 2008

Mark Pauly and doctoral student Fredric Blavin explore how the use of evidence based medicine and cost-effectiveness analysis can add useful insight to the classical moral hazard framework in the optimal design of insurance.

Tags: Mark Pauly

National Healthcare Incentives Institute Kick-off Meeting October 19-21.

Source: National Healthcare Incentives Institute website

The National Healthcare Incentives Institute convened public policy, business and academic experts in Washington, D.C. to discuss evaluation and implementation of initiatives related to healthcare incentives. LDI CHI co-sponsored the event, and Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, spoke on “Pay for Performance for Patients (P4P4P): Using Behavioral Economics to Make Incentives More Effective”

Tags: Kevin Volpp

CHIBE Research Helps Identify Money-Related Personality Traits

Source: Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2008

A Wall Street Journal article about ‘spendthrifts’ and ‘tightwads’ profiles work done by affiliated faculty Scott Rick, PhD and George Loewenstein, PhD.

About the Bail-Out?

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, October 2, 2008

David Asch, MD, MBA asks pertinent questions regarding the financial system bail-out.

Tags: David Asch

Aetna and CHIBE Faculty Working Together

Source: AMNews, August 4, 2008

Aetna teams up with Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD and Stephen Kimmel, MD to examine the impact of lottery incentives on medication adherence.

Rachel Werner, MD, PhD Interviewed by

Dr. Werner compared the quality of care at safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals in an article published in the May, 2008 Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Applying Behavioral Economic Theories Can Foster Healthy Choices

George Loewenstein, PhD; Stephen Kimmel, MD; Scott Halpern, MD, PhD; and Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD weigh in on incentives.