There are Free Lunches Statement of Intentions

There are Free Lunches: Behavioral Clues to Live Happy in the Economic World is a blog that intends to present updated and relevant information about the "hidden" and only recently uncovered dimensions of the economic science: the behavioral factors. With this blog we intend to promote in Europe and in the rest of the World, the top research articles and perspectives on behavioral economics, decision making, consumer behavior, and general behavioral science. We aim to be followed by journalists, academics, managers, civil servants, and everyone who wishes to improve their daily interaction with the economic world and consequently, their lives' happiness.

Monday, 24 October 2011

How Behavioral Economics Can Help Cure the Health Care Crisis (via HBR)

Noncompliance with medical advice is one reason the U.S. health care is so costly. Yet it has received only cursory attention in the national health care debate — undoubtedly because politicians don't want to risk offending their constituents.

How bad is this problem? According to a study by the National Community Pharmacists Association, three of every four Americans don't take their drugs as directed. Forty-nine percent forget to take them; 31% don't fill their prescriptions and 29% stop taking their pills before the drugs run out! According to the New England Healthcare Institute, this costs the U.S. $290 billion per year (over 11% of our $2.5 trillion health care bill).

More waste comes from missed appointments. According to a cross-study analysis, no-show rates for doctor's visits run as high as 20% to 30%. Although there is no system-wide estimate of the effect, one study pegs the overall cost of each missed appointment to be over $700 to the health care system. Given the fact that in 2006 there were about 900 million appointments, the annual cost to the system is over $150 billion.

We think there is a tremendous opportunity to use behavioral economics (which recognizes that people aren't always rational) and relatively simple technology to create new tools that aid health organizations in managing consumers' behavior and that help patients improve their own actions. Even very small changes in patient population behaviors would have a dramatic impact on costs.

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