Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics News Archive

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Shortened Shifts for Residents Not Associated with Patient Outcomes

Sources:  Reuters, Penn Medicine News, HealthDay, Physicians News Digest, December 10, 2014

A study published in JAMA by lead investigator Mitesh Patel examined national death and readmission rates after the 2011 ACGME duty hour reforms went into effect. Patel reported that “some hoped that by shortening intern shifts from 30 hours to 16 hours, less fatigued residents would lead to less medical errors and improved patient outcomes. Yet, others were concerned that shorter shifts would increase patient handoffs and leave less time for education, thereby negatively affecting patient outcomes. These results show that in the first year after the reforms, neither was true.”

Many Breast Cancer Patients Receive Unnecessarily Long Courses of Radiation

Sources: Penn Medicine News, The New York Times, Time, USA Today, NBC News, December 10, 2014

A study published in JAMA authored by researchers Justin Bekelman and Zeke Emanuel found that two-thirds of women treated for early-stage breast cancer in the U.S. receive longer radiation therapy than necessary. The vast majority of women who undergo lumpectomies receive six to seven weeks of radiation therapy, despite multiple randomized trials and professional society guidelines showing that three weeks of radiation is just as clinically effective, more convenient, and less costly.

Using Behavioral Economics to Achieve Wellness Goals

Source: Harvard Business Review, December 1, 2014

A Harvard Business Review article by David Asch and Kevin Volpp encourages the adoption of behavioral economics approaches for wellness programs. Specific suggestions for implementation include: smaller incentives that are easy to find, constructing teams whose success depends on each member achieving a goal and turning repetitive activities into a daily game.

Priority Given to Kidney Donors When They Need a Kidney

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Renal & Urology News, Physicians News Digest, November 21, 2014

Researchers led by Dr. Peter Reese found that a US policy that puts previous kidney donors at the top of the transplant list is working. The organ donors had much shorter waiting times for a transplant and received higher-quality kidneys than non-donors. "After transplant, their survival is excellent compared with similar people who were not organ donors," Reese added.

Tags: Peter Reese

Troy Brennan Discusses CVS Company Strategy at LDI

Source: LDI Health Economist, November 18, 2014

Troy Brennan, Chief Medical Officer at CVS, recently spoke at an LDI health policy seminar about the impact of CVS' decision to stop selling tobacco and their strategies moving forward. These including expanding the in-store Minute Clinics, developing close ties with physicians, developing medication adherence services and favoring new health care related services and products in the front of the store.

Physicians Prescribe Less Brand Name Drugs When Generics are the Default

Source: Penn Medicine News, November 17, 2014

A study lead by Mitesh Patel found that physicians prescribe less brand name drugs when generics are the default choice in electronic health records. “Not only was changing the default options within the EHR medication prescriber effective at increasing generic medication prescribing, this simple intervention was cost-free and required no additional effort on the part of the physician,” said Patel

Tags: Mitesh Patel

CHIBE One of 11 Roybal Centers Funded for Renewal

Source: National Institute on Aging, November 12, 2014

An announcement from the NIH relayed that funds would be renewed funds for 11 Edward R. Roybal Centers for Research on Applied Gerontology. The announcement states "the centers have been innovative models for moving promising social and behavioral research findings out of the laboratory and into programs and practices that can be applied every day to improve the health and well-being of older people." CHIBE is one of the 11 Roybal Centers funded for renewal.

Tags: Kevin Volpp

George Loewenstein on Overestimation of Ebola Risk

Source: The New York Times, October 15, 2014

George Loewenstein was quoted in a New York Times article about steps for avoiding public hysteria during the Ebola crisis. He offers that “the system often flips from one extreme to another, from ignoring risks altogether and then overreacting.” 

Kevin Volpp and David Asch Receive Clinical Innovator Award

Source: Penn Medicine News, October 10, 2014

Kevin Volpp and David Asch were two recipients of the Penn Medicine Awards of Excellence. The awardees exemplify the profession's highest values of scholarship and teaching, innovation, commitment to service, leadership, and dedication to patient care. 

7th Annual Penn-CMU Roybal Center Retreat in Cape May

Source: LDI Health Economist, October 2, 2014

This year, the 7th annual Penn-CMU Roybal Center Retreat returned to Cape May, New Jersey on September 11th and 12th. The Roybal Retreat brings together academic experts from CHIBE and Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Behavioral Decision Research (CBDR) in Pittsburgh. The Retreat took place at Congress Hall and featured several faculty presentations, an innovation tournament and a team-building scavenger hunt.

Scott Halpern Awarded a UH2/UH3 Grant to Study Default Palliative Care Consultations

Scott Halpern has been awarded a five-year, $3.17 grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to  conduct a pragmatic randomized trial among seriously ill patients admitted to nine electronically integrated hospitals within the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. The study will investigate the effectiveness of changing the current “opt-in” approach for palliative care consultations in the ICU to an “opt-out” model.  In addition, the study will provide experimental evidence regarding the effectiveness of inpatient palliative care consult services in real-world settings, and will also gauge which types of services work best for certain types of patients.

Using "Temptation Bundling" to Build Better Habits

Source:, September 28, 2014

A article refers to Katherine Milkman's research on temptation bundling in an article about building better habits. Her research showed that students who were only permitted to listen to a selected "sticky" novel at the gym exercised more than the control group and the group that was allowed to listen to their selected novel when they exercised at home as well. Milkman describes this as harnessing a bad habit and using its motivational power for good.

Are Anti-Vaccination Beliefs Contagious?

Source: The Washington Post, September 22, 2014

In a recent Washington Post article, Alison Buttenheim sheds light on the disturbing trend of an increasing number parents opting out of vaccinating their children in California. She believes parents are spreading their ideas that vaccines are unsafe or ineffective through social networks and these social processes produce clusters of vaccine refusers. When like-minded parents are drawn to the same schools, it creates schools and communities where vaccine refusal is the norm.

"Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry"

Source: The New York Times, Sept 20, 2014

Jason Karlawish, in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, asks "when should we set aside a life lived for the future and, instead, embrace the pleasures of the present?" He notes that the United States Preventive Services Task Force finds that after certain ages, the benefits of prevention are not worth the risks and hassles of testing, surgeries and medications. He suggests that a national investment in communities and services that improve the quality of our aging lives might help us to achieve not only life, but happiness. 

How the Fresh-Start Effect Creates a Clean Slate

Source: strategy+business, September 16, 2014

Strategy+business recently conducted a video interview with Wharton Professor Katherine Milkman about motivating people to achieve their goals. The key to achieving our goals throughout the year, shes says, is leveraging fresh starts--moments when we wipe the slate clean and are motivated to work harder. 

What Health Systems Can Learn From the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 2014

A Philadelphia Inquirer article authored by David Asch, Roy Rosin and Raina Merchant reflects on why the ALS ice bucket challenge went viral and what health systems working on topics ranging from vaccinations and colorectal screening can learn from the campaign.

Vaccine Exemption Research Garners NICHD Funding

Source: Penn Nursing News, August 20, 2014

CHIBE Faculty member Alison Buttenheim has received a grant from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development to investigate the vaccination status of children exempt from school-entry immunization mandates. Her research in vaccine hesitancy and refusal titled “Potential Effects of California’s New Vaccine Exemption Law on the Prevalence and Clustering of Exemptions" was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health

How to Boost Organ Donor Registrations? Research Says Just Keep Asking

Source: The Washington Post, August 18, 2014

A Washington Post Article references Judd Kessler's latest research on organ donor registration. He found that just simply asking again for organ donation generated more organ donors.  This suggests that policymakers should look for more opportunities to keep asking this question, like on income tax forms, as the researchers said some states are considering.

Tags: Judd Kessler

Why Fresh Starts Matter

Source: Strategy+Business, August 8, 2014

Wharton Professor and CHIBE faculty member Katherine Milkman recently spoke with strategy+business about her research on the "fresh start effect" with Hengchen Dai and Jason Riis.

Innovation in Medical Education

Sources:  Penn Medicine News, WHYY Newsworks, July 30,  2014

Coinciding with the IOM's report on the governance and financing of medical education, David Asch proposes recommendations for the future of medical education in a Perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine. The recommendations include defining better measures of training success, testing fundamental changes to the structure and content of medical education and testing new approaches for financing medical education.

Tags: David Asch