The Effect of Financial Incentives on Biometric Health Indices

We report frequently on financial incentives (for example here, here, and here). In fact, our podcast with Dr. Mitesh Patel, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Health Care Management at the Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, addressed when incentives work and why.

Now a new study examines “Trends in Biometric Health Indices Within an Employer-Sponsored Wellness Program With Outcome-Based Incentives.”

The study’s purpose was to “evaluate changes in employees’ biometrics over time relative to outcome-based incentive thresholds.” The authors looked at an unnamed “large employer primarily in Western United States,” and reviewed employees in the areas of “office, retail, and distribution workforce.”

The program was a “voluntary outcome-based biometric screening program, incentivized with health insurance premium discounts,” and the authors measured “body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, and nicotine.”

The participants were followed for a year, and changes in measurements of the above areas were evaluated.

The results? “On average, participants who did not meet the incentive threshold at baseline decreased their BMI (1%), glucose (8%), blood pressure (systolic 9%, diastolic 8%), and total cholesterol (8%) by year 2 with improvements generally sustained or continued during each additional year of participation.”

Indeed, for those wondering about the effectiveness of incentives on biometrics is compelling: “On average, individuals at high health risk who participated in a financially incentivized biometric assessment program improved their health indices over time. Further research is needed to understand key determinants that drive health improvement indicated here.”