Ask any doctor and they’ll have plenty to tell you about their many lazy, forgetful or stubborn patients. Even as medical science continues to offer great breakthroughs, uncooperative patients can sometimes cancel their impact, as there is only so much a doctor can do – the patient has to want to help himself.
This might change, however, as more researchers, health-care officers and insurers are trying out a new method: giving them money.
In the past few years, the approach of offering patients financial incentives when they see a doctor, follow their treatment or perform physical activity on a regular basis has become more an intriguing concept.
It is yet unclear whether such a practice could become the new norm or if it’s just a fleeting trend, as researchers have found mixed results.
One of the largest studies on the matter – involving more than 2,500 participants – recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has showed great promise. The research studied what would happen if employees of the CVS pharmacy were given financial rewards worth $800 in order to get them to quit smoking.
It seems that almost in unanimity, the participants accepted the challenge. The randomized trial had the patients organized in four groups with different amounts of financial incentives. However, researchers offered to all free nicotine replacement therapy in order to make an easier transition to not smoking.
After six months, the follow-up examinations showed that groups with patients driven by financial reasons ranged in the rate of smoking cessation from 9.4 percent to 16 percent. In the group where no money was given, patients showed a 6 percent improvement.
The most interesting results were found in the group’s participants who were asked to deposit $150 as guarantee they would give up smoking for at least six months. This sum would be refunded at the end of the period, alongside periodic rewards: $200 after two weeks, $200 at the 1-month mark and $400 after six months.
However, not all studies on the subject have been as successful as this one. Two other major studies that took place in February this year have reported completely opposite results.
One of them involved giving HIV patients up to $280 a year if they would take their medicine daily; the other one rewarded people $25 if they agreed to take an HIV test and if they came back for the test’s results, another $100 was at stake.
So far, researchers are not sure if the problem was the amount of money, and if more money would mean better results; others believe only certain demographics react positively to financial incentives.
Image Source: Alwayz Therro