“All the Money in the World …” Patient Perspectives Regarding the Influence of Financial Incentives

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Abstract

Objective.

To analyze patient perspectives of the use of financial incentives in a hypertension intervention.

Study Setting.

Twelve Veterans Affairs primary care clinics over a 9-month period.

Study Design.

Qualitative semistructured interviews conducted with 54 hypertensive veterans participating in an intervention to promote guideline-consistent therapy. Intervention components included an intervention letter requesting patients talk with their providers, an offer of U.S.$20 to bring in the letter to their provider, and a health educator phone call.

Data Collection Methods.

Semistructured interviews were conducted. Transcripts were coded for thematic content. The financial incentive theme was then subcoded for more detailed analysis.

Principle Findings.

Most participants (n=48; 88.9 percent) stated the incentive had (or would have) no effect on their decision to initiate a discussion with their provider. Some participants articulated reservations about the effectiveness and/or appropriateness of financial incentives in health care decisions; however, a few expressed the opinion that there may be some potential benefits to the use of financial incentives if they encourage patients to be active in their health care.

Conclusion.

The findings of this study raise questions about the appropriateness and unintended consequences of employing patient-directed financial incentives in health care settings.

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