Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics News Archive

You are viewing all posts

Kevin Volpp Receives Distinguished Investigator Award

Source: Association for Clinical and Translational Science, April 18, 2015

At the Translational Science 2015 annual meeting, The Association for Clinical and Translational Science and The American Federation for Medication Research presented awards to investigators with outstanding contributions of investigators and educators in the field. Kevin Volpp was the recipient of the Distinguished Investigator Award for Career Achievement and Contribution to Clinical and Translational Science for Translation from Clinical Use into Public Benefit and Policy.

Tags: Kevin Volpp

Life Insurance Policy Uses Behavioral Economics to Reward Healthy Living

Source: The New York Times, April 8, 2015

John Hancock Insurance Company announced a new program being operated through a partnership with Vitality, a global wellness company that works with insurers throughout the US. The new program rewards insurers points for continuously sharing wellness data. Achieving different levels of points lead to discounts on annual life insurance premiums. Kevin Volpp commented that the program “...changes the paradigm of life insurance, in some sense, it tries to change your insurance into less of a passive vehicle that pays the bills if something happens, into a more active vehicle to get people to lower their risk.”

Tags: Kevin Volpp

How Physicians Can Use Behavioral Economics to Improve Patient Care

Source: GI & Hepatology News, March 20, 2015

In an interview at the 2015 AGA Tech Summit, David Asch discusses how physicians can incorporate the principles of behavioral economics into their practices to improve patient care.

Tags: David Asch

Smartphone Apps Just as Accurate as Wearable Devices for Tracking Physical Activity

Sources: The New York Times, CNNReuters, Los Angeles Times, TIME, Self, Medical Daily, Mother JonesUPI, Penn Medicine News, February 11, 2015

A new study published in JAMA by Meredith Case, Holland Burwick, Kevin Volpp and Mitesh Patel is the first to compare the accuracy of smartphone apps to wearable devices when measuring physical activity. The researchers tested 10 smartphone apps and devices and found that the smartphone apps were just as accurate as the devices at tracking steps. "Our findings suggest that smartphone apps could prove to be a more widely accessible and affordable way of tracking health behaviors,” says Patel.

Bumped-up Medicaid Fees for Primary Care Linked to Improved Appointment Availability

Sources: LDI Blog, WHYY, Courier Post,, January 22, 2015

A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine by LDI Executive Director Dan Polsky and co-authors at Penn and the Urban Institute provided the first evidence that the Medicaid “fee bump” succeed in its goal of improving primary care availability for growing numbers of Medicaid patients. In a 10-state study before and after the pay bump, primary care appointment availability improved 7.7 percentage points for Medicaid patients, while remaining unchanged for privately insured patients.

Tags: Dan Polsky

How Wearable Devices Can Effectively Promote Health Behavior Change

Sources: Penn News, The Atlantic, NY Daily News, Philadelphia Magazine,, January 8, 2014

A JAMA Viewpoint article authored by Mitesh Patel, Kevin Volpp and David Asch describes why wearable devices alone don't drive behavior change. They offer that the potential health benefits depend more on the design of the engagement strategies than on the features of their technology.

LDI Report on 2014 Behavioral Economics and Health Symposium

Source: LDI Health Economist, January 2014

CHIBE's 2014 Behavioral Economics and Health Symposium took place in November at The Wharton School's Huntsman Hall. The symposium brought together academic, business and government experts from around the country to discuss the field's latest findings and trends. Speakers ranged from a member of the White House Social & Behavioral Sciences Team and top executives from PCORI and AHRQ to leading researchers from universities including Penn, Stanford, Harvard and Carnegie Mellon.

Radiation Plus Hormone Therapy Prolongs Survival for Older Men with Prostate Cancer

Sources: Penn Medicine News, CBS Philly, Yahoo! News, Renal and Urology News January 6, 2014

A new study led by Justin Bekelman in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that hormone therapy plus radiation reduced cancer deaths by nearly 50 percent in men aged 76 to 85 compared to men who only received hormone therapy. Bekelman advises patients and their physicians to "carefully discuss curative treatment options for prostate cancer and reduce the use of hormone therapy alone.”    

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.