Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics News Archive

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AcademyHealth Article of Year Honors Paper by Konetzka, Polsky and Werner

Source: LDI Health Economist, June 2014

A paper co-authored by a University of Chicago health economist and two LDI Senior Fellows has won the 2014 AcademyHealth "Article of the Year" award. The honor was announced at the health services research organization's annual research conference earlier this week.

Originally published in the Journal of Health Economics, the work, "Shipping out instead of shaping up: Rehospitalization from nursing homes as an unintended effect of public reporting," was produced by Tamara Konetzka, Associate Professor in the University of Chicago's Department of Health Studies; Dan Polsky, a Professor of both Medicine at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and Health Care Management at The Wharton School; and Rachel Werner, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School.

"Insourcing" Innovation to Transform Health Care

Source: Penn Medicine News, May 8, 2014

 In a Perspective piece published in the May 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, David Asch, Christian Terwiesch, Kevin Mahoney and Roy Rosin discuss the concept of "insourcing" and suggest a four-stage design process which, when adopted internally, may help organizations implement more efficient health care delivery solutions. 

Biases Found In Faculty Mentoring

Sources: New York TimesNPR, Scientific American, Washington Post,, Inside Higher Ed,, The Wire, LDI News, April 29, 2014

A recent study conducted by Wharton Assistant Professor Katherine Milkman found that academic departments linked to more lucrative professions are more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty in fields linked to less lucrative jobs. Milkman noted that " business academia, we see a 25 percentage point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males vs. women and minorities."

Progress Report for Applying Behavioral Economics to Perplexing Problems in Health and Health Care

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, April 22, 2014

The RWJF funded "Applying Behavioral Economics to Perplexing Problems in Health and Health Care" Initiative, administered by CHIBE, funded a series of grants to drastically improve the delivery of health care and the promotion of health. The program received almost 600 applications for the first and second round and ultimately funded 14 grants in total. Results from the first round have been encouraging, notes Kevin Volpp. "Clearly behavioral economics approaches have a lot of potential to contribute to health care,” he said. “At the same time it’s also true that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to figure out how those approaches can optimally contribute to health care and why some approaches that may be conceptually appealing are not successful, or only modestly successful, when deployed in field settings.”

NEJM Perspective Roundtable: Avoiding Low-Value Care

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, April 3, 2014

Scott Halpern joins Carrie Colla of Dartmouth and Bruce Landon of Harvard in a NEJM Perspective Roundtable moderated by Harvard's Atul Gawande to address the problem of low-value care and discuss how physicians can work with patients to make appropriate choices regarding "low-value" interventions.

The Rising Use of Incentives For Healthy Behavior in the US

Source: British Medical Journal, April 2, 2014

In a feature article in BMJ, Kevin Volpp says there is "increased interest in both public and private sectors in using incentives to increase healthy behaviours”  and reveals the key components of a successful financial incentive scheme: "simplicity, saliency, and relatively immediate feedback.” The article also cites research conduced by Volpp and colleagues that showed a significant rise in participation in health risk assessments when financial incentives in the form of a lottery were offered.

Kevin Volpp at AIA's "National Forum: Incentivising a Healthier Australia"

Sources: Radio National, The Conversation, Financial Standard, New Zealand Herald, March 6, 2014

Kevin Volpp visited Australia to give the keynote at an event hosted by AIA Australia entitled "National Forum: Incentivising a Healthier Australia." He reviewed various health incentive research projects in the U.S. and the UK, including his own, that have offered cash rewards in return for healthier behaviors. He was also invited on Australia's Radio National News show to discuss how incentives can encourage healthier behaviors and combat Australia's rising obesity rates. 

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Gamifying Workplace Wellness Programs

Source: NPR KERA News, March 5, 2014

Harald Schmidt spoke with NPR Dallas about cost savings for workplace wellness programs. Even though a number of studies show little cost savings for prevention, employers are still searching for the right incentives. Harald notes that gamified corporate wellness programs that use rewards could be effective but he warns that we don't want to make people dependent on these financial winnings, rather, we want them to develop healthy habits that will be in their own and their employer's best interest.

Benefits of Paying People to Get Healthy

Source: The Conversation UK, March 5, 2014

In response to the Australian government's recently expressed concern over the country's growing health budget, the Australian outlet published a contributed article by Kevin Volpp, which discusses the benefits of offering financial incentives for people to either get well or avoid becoming unwell in the first place.

Tags: Kevin Volpp

What Works to Get People to Quit Smoking?

Source: WHYY RadioTimes, February 27, 2014

Kevin Volpp was a guest on WHYY RadioTime's "smoking trends, policies and prevention" radio spot along with Joseph Cappella from Annenberg School of Communication. The two discussed the impact of smoking hiring bans on communities, how smoking cessation programs can be made more attractive and the e-cigarette debate.

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Kevin Volpp Named Vice Chair of Health Policy

Source: Penn Medicine News, February 20, 2014

Kevin Volpp has been named Vice Chair of Health Policy, a new position created in Penn Medicine's Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy.  Zeke Emanuel, Chair of the Medical Ethics and Health Policy Department, comments that together with Dr. Steven Joffe, who was named Vice Chair of Medical Ethics, they will "help cement our department's national leadership in the areas of both health policy and medical ethics.”

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Increased Risks After Kidney Donation Very Low

Source: Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2014

A recent study in JAMA assessed the absolute risk a kidney donor faces after the operation and the added risk incurred as a result of it. Although the added risks from donating a kidney are very low, Scott Halpern comments that "people are notoriously bad" at weighing increased risks of unwanted outcomes against a very low probability that it will ever happen. He also offers that in order to help prospective donors make the right decision, transplant surgeons should ask them to focus on how low the probability of the poor outcome is to begin with.

CVS' Decision to Stop Selling Cigarettes

Source: New York Times, February 5, 2014; Philadelphia Inquirer, February 9, 2014

The nation's second-largest drug store chain, CVS Caremark, announced last week that it would stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products by October 2014, resulting in a projected annual revenue loss of two billion dollars. CHIBE advisory Board Members Troy Brennan and Steven Schroeder, wrote an op-ed article in JAMA making the case to eliminate tobacco products from drug stores. Dr. Brennan remarks "what we’re thinking about is if others want to emulate this business decision we’ve made, then over time that will make cigarettes less available — and scientific literature does suggest that a reduction in the availability of cigarettes reduces smoking.”

Geography Plays a Major Role in Access to Pediatric Kidney Transplantation in the U.S.

Source: Penn Medicine News;, January 16, 2014

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology finds that waiting times for kidneys for children with renal disease can vary widely depending on which state you live in. Peter Reese and colleagues say this discrepancy is particularly troublesome because children awaiting kidney transplants must undergo kidney dialysis.

Tags: Peter Reese

The Fresh Start Effect

Source: Knowledge@Wharton, January 6, 2014; The Daily Pennsylvanian, January 16, 2014; ThinkAdvisor, January 27, 2014

Wharton researchers Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman and Jason Riis found that "fresh starts" demarcated by temporal landmarks, such as a birthday, the beginning of a school semester, or even next Monday, cause people to be more effective at setting goals and increasing their chances of achieving them. Now that they have demonstrated the existence of this "fresh start effect," Hengchen Dai notes "the next step is to determine how we can induce fresh starts in the workplace." 

Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Source: New York Times, January 3, 2014

In a New York Times "Gray Matter" commentary,  Kevin Volpp and Katherine Milkman provide behavioral economics-based insights into how consumers can better keep their New Year's resolutions. These insights are based on their own research and include "making a plan," using financially-based commitment devices, "temptation bundling" and mentor support systems.

Challenging Obesity Cases Helped By Incentives

Source: Slate, January 2, 2014

A recent Slate article describing ways to motivate people to exercise refer's to Kevin Volpp's study that took morbidly obese men and gave them financial incentives for meeting weight loss goals. The incentive groups both lost a significant amount of weight, but most subjects gained the weight back after four months. Although this was not a long term solution, this challenging group changed their behavior with the help of incentives.

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Incentives for Medication Adherence

Source: CNBC, December 18, 2013

As part of CNBC's "Innovation Cities" series, the network interviewed Kevin Volpp along with Project Managers Amanda Hodlofski and Lisa Wesby about their research incentivizing medication adherence using GlowCaps. These studies provide immediate feedback to participants using small incentives for taking prescribed medications.

Doctors Aren't Learning Cost-Conscious Care

Sources: Penn Medicine, Medical Daily, December 17, 2013

A new research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine by Mitesh Patel finds that less than 15 percent of internal medicine residency programs have a forma; curriculum addressing the cost of care. “Teaching new physicians to practice high-value, cost-conscious care has been recognized as a national priority,” Patel said.

Tags: Mitesh Patel

Behavioral Economics and Low Value Care

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, December 13, 2013

In November, CHIBE co-hosted a conference with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Donaghue Foundation focusing on applying behavioral economic concepts to reduce the use of low-value health care. Six grantees of the Applying Behavioral Economics Initiative discussed interventions that will test these behavioral economic concepts over next two years.