Why Money Alone Can’t (Always) “Nudge” Physicians: The Role of Behavioral Economics in the Design of Physician Incentives

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Behavioral economics seeks to define how humans respond to incentives, how to maximize desired behavioral change, and how to avoid perverse negative impacts on work effort. Relatively new in their application to physician behavior, behavioral economic principles have primarily been used to construct optimized financial incentives. This review introduces and evaluates the essential components of building successful financial incentive programs for physicians, adhering to the principles of behavioral economics. Referencing conceptual publications, observational studies, and the relatively sparse controlled studies, the authors offer physician leaders, healthcare administrators, and practicing anesthesiologists the issues to consider when designing physician incentive programs to maximize effectiveness and minimize unintended consequences.

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