Incentivizing Blood Donation: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis to Test Titmuss’ Hypotheses

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Abstract

Objectives: Titmuss hypothesized that paying blood donors would reduce the quality of the blood donated and would be economically inefficient. We report here the first systematic review to test these hypotheses, reporting on both financial and nonfinancial incentives. Method: Studies deemed eligible for inclusion were peer-reviewed, experimental studies that presented data on the quantity (as a proxy for efficiency) and quality of blood donated in at least two groups: those donating blood when offered an incentive, and those donating blood with no offer of an incentive. The following were searched: MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO using OVID SP, CINAHL via EBSCO and CENTRAL, the Cochrane Library, Econlit via EBSCO, JSTOR Health and General Science Collection, and Google. Results: The initial search yielded 1100 abstracts, which resulted in 89 full papers being assessed for eligibility, of which seven studies, reported in six papers, met the inclusion criteria. The included studies involved 93,328 participants. Incentives had no impact on the likelihood of donation (OR = 1.22 CI 95% 0.91–1.63; p = .19). There was no difference between financial and nonfinancial incentives in the quantity of blood donated. Of the two studies that assessed quality of blood, one found no effect and the other found an adverse effect from the offer of a free cholesterol test (β = 0.011 p < .05). Conclusion: The limited evidence suggests that Titmuss’ hypothesis of the economic inefficiency of incentives is correct. There is insufficient evidence to assess their likely impact on the quality of the blood provided.

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