Nudges are becoming an increasingly critical part of American healthcare. They help keep patients safe, steer doctors and consumers to make more cost-effective decisions, and improve the quality of care. Behavioral nudges anticipate innate flaws in human thinking that tend to misjudge probabilistic scenarios and facilitate the users by setting defaults and digital reminders. In healthcare, nudges originated out of a desire to improve patient safety. It has branched out because the electronic health record (EHR) makes it relatively easy to use defaults and reminders to guide healthcare decisions.
“There are opportunities to work through all of these mediums to align nudges with improved medical decision-making,” says Mitesh Patel, M.D., MBA, director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, which claims to be the first behavioral “design team” embedded in health system.
Nudges should be designed to create a path of least resistance around a choice so that whoever is being nudged will be receptive to it, experts say. “Nudges can be made difficult to opt out of to increase the likelihood of behavior change, but it is important that a nudge actually aligns with what the people being nudged would see as either in their or society’s best interests,” says Kevin Volpp, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics and one of the world’s foremost experts on nudges and behavioral economics in healthcare.