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Concept: Travel incentive


Background Financial incentives promote many health behaviors, but effective ways to deliver health incentives remain uncertain. Methods We randomly assigned CVS Caremark employees and their relatives and friends to one of four incentive programs or to usual care for smoking cessation. Two of the incentive programs targeted individuals, and two targeted groups of six participants. One of the individual-oriented programs and one of the group-oriented programs entailed rewards of approximately $800 for smoking cessation; the others entailed refundable deposits of $150 plus $650 in reward payments for successful participants. Usual care included informational resources and free smoking-cessation aids. Results Overall, 2538 participants were enrolled. Of those assigned to reward-based programs, 90.0% accepted the assignment, as compared with 13.7% of those assigned to deposit-based programs (P<0.001). In intention-to-treat analyses, rates of sustained abstinence from smoking through 6 months were higher with each of the four incentive programs (range, 9.4 to 16.0%) than with usual care (6.0%) (P<0.05 for all comparisons); the superiority of reward-based programs was sustained through 12 months. Group-oriented and individual-oriented programs were associated with similar 6-month abstinence rates (13.7% and 12.1%, respectively; P=0.29). Reward-based programs were associated with higher abstinence rates than deposit-based programs (15.7% vs. 10.2%, P<0.001). However, in instrumental-variable analyses that accounted for differential acceptance, the rate of abstinence at 6 months was 13.2 percentage points (95% confidence interval, 3.1 to 22.8) higher in the deposit-based programs than in the reward-based programs among the estimated 13.7% of the participants who would accept participation in either type of program. Conclusions Reward-based programs were much more commonly accepted than deposit-based programs, leading to higher rates of sustained abstinence from smoking. Group-oriented incentive programs were no more effective than individual-oriented programs. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and CVS Caremark; number, NCT01526265 .).

Concepts: Smoking cessation, Randomness, Motivation, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive, CVS Caremark, Caremark Rx


Timely follow-up after hospital discharge may decrease readmission to hospital. Financial incentives to improve follow-up have been introduced in the United States and Canada, but it is unknown whether they are effective. Our objective was to evaluate the impact of an incentive program on timely physician follow-up after hospital discharge.

Concepts: United States, Physician, Surgeon, Motivation, Time series, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive


Behavioral economics provides insights about the development of effective incentives for physicians to deliver high-value care. It suggests that the structure and delivery of incentives can shape behavior, as can thoughtful design of the decision-making environment. This article discusses several principles of behavioral economics, including inertia, loss aversion, choice overload, and relative social ranking. Whereas these principles have been applied to motivate personal health decisions, retirement planning, and savings behavior, they have been largely ignored in the design of physician incentive programs. Applying these principles to physician incentives can improve their effectiveness through better alignment with performance goals. Anecdotal examples of successful incentive programs that apply behavioral economics principles are provided, even as the authors recognize that its application to the design of physician incentives is largely untested, and many outstanding questions exist. Application and rigorous evaluation of infrastructure changes and incentives are needed to design payment systems that incentivize high-quality, cost-conscious care.

Concepts: Psychology, Motivation, Human behavior, Incentive, Microeconomics, Incentive program, Travel incentive, Perverse incentive


Companies often provide incentives for employees to maintain healthy lifestyles. These incentives can take the form of either discounted premiums for healthy-weight employees (“carrot” policies) or increased premiums for overweight employees (“stick” policies). In the three studies reported here, we demonstrated that even when stick and carrot policies are formally equivalent, they do not necessarily convey the same information to employees. Stick but not carrot policies were viewed as reflecting negative company attitudes toward overweight employees (Study 1a) and were evaluated especially negatively by overweight participants (Study 1b). This was true even when overweight employees paid less money under the stick than under the carrot policy. When acting as policymakers (Study 2), participants with high levels of implicit overweight bias were especially likely to choose stick policies-often on the grounds that such policies were cost-effective-even when doing so was more costly to the company. Policymakers should realize that the framing of incentive programs can convey tacit, and sometimes stigmatizing, messages.

Concepts: Nutrition, Policy, Motivation, Carrot, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive, Chapman Stick


Physicians are increasingly becoming salaried employees of hospitals or large physician groups. Yet few published reports have evaluated provider-driven quality incentive programs for salaried physicians. In 2006 the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization began a quality incentive program for its salaried physicians. Eligible physicians were given performance targets for three quality measures every six months. The incentive payments could be as much as 2 percent of a physician’s annual income. Over thirteen six-month terms, the program used 130 different quality measures. Although quality-of-care improvements and cost reductions were difficult to calculate, anecdotal evidence points to multiple successes. For example, the program helped physicians meet many federal health information technology meaningful-use criteria and produced $15.5 million in incentive payments. The program also facilitated the adoption of an electronic health record, improved hand hygiene compliance, increased efficiency in radiology and the cancer center, and decreased emergency department use. The program demonstrated that even small incentives tied to carefully structured metrics, priority setting, and clear communication can help change salaried physicians' behavior in ways that improve the quality and safety of health care and ease the physicians' sense of administrative burden.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Hospital, Motivation, Electronic health record, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive


As policy makers and others seek to reduce health care cost growth while improving health care quality, one approach gaining momentum is fee-for-value reimbursement. This payment strategy maintains the traditional fee-for-service arrangement but includes quality and spending incentives. We examined Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Physician Group Incentive Program, which uses a fee-for-value approach focused on primary care physicians. We analyzed the program’s impact on quality and spending from 2008 to 2011 for over three million beneficiaries in over 11,000 physician practices. Participation in the incentive program was associated with approximately 1.1 percent lower total spending for adults (5.1 percent lower for children) and the same or improved performance on eleven of fourteen quality measures over time. Our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence about the potential effectiveness of models that align payment with cost and quality performance, and they demonstrate that it is possible to transform reimbursement within a fee-for-service framework to encourage and incentivize physicians to provide high-quality care, while also reducing costs.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Improve, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association


E-prescribing, or the electronic generation of a prescription and its routing to a pharmacy, is generally believed to improve health care quality and reduce costs. However, physicians were slow to embrace this technology until 2008, when Congress authorized e-prescribing incentives as part of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act. Using e-prescribing data from Surescripts, we determined that as of December 2010, close to 40 percent of active e-prescribers had adopted the technology in response to the federal incentive program. The data also suggest that among providers who were already e-prescribing, the federal incentive program was associated with a 9-11 percent increase in the use of e-prescribing-equivalent to an additional 6.8-8.2 e-prescriptions per provider per month. We believe that financial incentives can drive providers' adoption and use of health information technology such as e-prescribing, and that health information networks can be a powerful tool in tracking incentives' progress.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Health insurance, Motivation, Health informatics, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive


In September 2011 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded $85 million in grants to ten states to test financial incentive programs to encourage healthy behavior among Medicaid enrollees with chronic diseases. There is little published evidence about the effectiveness of such incentives within the Medicaid program. We evaluated the available research from three earlier Medicaid incentive programs and found mixed results. On the one hand, in Florida only about half of the $41.3 million in available credits was “claimed” by enrollees between 2006 and 2011. On the other, Idaho’s incentive program was credited with improving the proportion of children who were up-to-date on well-child visits. Our findings suggest that Medicaid incentive programs should be designed so that enrollees can understand them and so that the incentives are attractive enough to motivate participation. Medicaid incentive programs also should be subject to rigorous evaluation to more clearly establish their effectiveness.

Concepts: Medicare, Medicine, Motivation, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicaid, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive


In a randomized controlled trial, we studied low-income adults newly covered by a primary care program to determine whether a cash incentive could encourage them to make an initial visit to a primary care provider. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of four groups: three groups whose members received $10 to complete a baseline survey during an interview and who were randomized to incentives of $50, $25, or $0 to visit their assigned primary care provider within six months after enrolling in the study; and a nonincentivized control group not contacted by the research team. Subjects in the $50 and $25 incentive groups were more likely to see a primary care provider (77 percent and 74 percent, respectively), compared to subjects in the $0 incentive group (68 percent). The effects of the intervention were about twice as large when we compared the proportions of subjects in the $50 and $25 incentive groups who visited their providers and the proportion in the nonincentivized group (61 percent). Cash incentive programs may steer newly covered low-income patients toward primary care, which could result in improved health outcomes and lower costs.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Motivation, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive


Rationale Pay-for-performance is an increasingly common quality improvement strategy despite the absence of robust supporting evidence. Objectives To determine the impact of a financial incentive program rewarding physicians for the completion of daily spontaneous breathing trials (SBTs) in three academic hospitals. Methods We compared data from mechanically ventilated patients from six months before to two years after introduction of a financial incentive program that provided annual payments to critical care physicians contingent on unit-level SBT completion rates. We used Poisson regression to compare the frequency of days on which SBTs were completed among eligible patients and days on which patients were excluded from SBT eligibility among all mechanically ventilated patients. We used multivariate regression to compare risk-adjusted duration of mechanical ventilation and in-hospital mortality. Measurements and Main Results The cohort included 7,291 mechanically ventilated patients with 75,621 ventilator days. Baseline daily SBT rates were 96.8% (Hospital A), 16.4% (Hospital B), and 74.7% (Hospital C). In hospital A, with the best baseline performance, there was no change in SBT rates, exclusion rates, or duration of mechanical ventilation across time periods. In hospitals B and C, with lower SBT completion rates at baseline, there was an increase in daily SBT completion rates and a concomitant increase in exclusions from eligibility. Duration of mechanical ventilation decreased in hospital C but not hospital B. Mortality was unchanged for all hospitals. Conclusions In hospitals with low baseline SBT completion, physician-targeted financial incentives were associated with increased SBT rates driven in part by increased exclusion rates, without consistent improvements in outcome.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Patient, Hospital, Actuarial science, Physician, Incentive, Incentive program, Travel incentive