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The Philadelphia Citizen: Generation Change Philly: The Doc Saving Us From Ourselves

From The Philadelphia Citizen: Dr. Kit Delgado’s eureka moment came when he was a new attending in the emergency room at Stanford University School of Medicine a decade ago. Resident physicians were required to get attendings to sign off on controlled medications like opioid painkillers. Delgado noticed prescriptions were always for 30 pills, the ordering system’s default number of pills per script. Thirty pills is too many for most cases requiring short-term pain relief. For Delgado, now at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, it was a critical insight. He showed that when Penn’s ER default order changed to 10 pills, his colleagues prescribed fewer opioids. “From working in the ER to realizing that, is a pretty powerful approach,” he says. It’s also behavioral economics, the basis for Delgado’s groundbreaking research at the University of Pennsylvania. Using behavioral economics, he and his team are working to change the way we understand and address problems from addiction and firearm injuries to distracted driving. Delgado’s work profile is extensive: Co-Chair, Penn Medicine Opioid Task Force; Associate Director, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics; Director, Behavioral Science & Analytics For Injury Reduction (BeSAFIR) Lab; Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine … fellowships, associate fellowships … Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. A physician-scientist who bridges the gap between the front lines of healthcare and behavioral research, Delgado is a Generation Change Philly Fellow, a partnership with the nonprofit Keepers of the Commons highlighting the city’s innovators and changemakers.

Studying how and why people behave how they behave

So, what does picking up a dropped cell phone while you’re on a highway have in common with opioid addiction, gun violence, or Covid? Behavioral economics studies how and why people behave the way they do. We assume people make decisions based on rational cost-benefit analysis and will act in their own self-interest. In reality, people are “predictably irrational.” “We have these certain situations of lapses of self-control that are really hard to prevent,” Delgado explains. “And it can be because there’s a certain value in the short term, [there are] rewards — not thinking about long-term benefits — there’s some emotional thing that’s overriding the rational thing to do.” Read more at The Philadelphia Citizen.