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Am J Manag Care. 2017 Jun;23(6):366-371.

Patients' views of a behavioral intervention including financial incentives.

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Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, 1229 Blockley Hall, 423 Guardian Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail:



Clinical trials are increasingly testing the effectiveness of paying patients' financial incentives for achieving desired clinical outcomes. Some researchers and providers are concerned that patient financial incentives will harm the doctor-patient relationship. How patients feel about these approaches, and these trials, is largely unknown. This study examined patients' perceptions of a compound behavioral and financial incentive intervention used in a large multicenter trial to lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), including their perceptions of benefits and challenges and the study's effect on patients' relationship with their primary care physicians (PCPs).


Semi-structured telephone interviews with patients post intervention.


PCPs from 3 primary care practices in the northeastern United States were randomized to 1 of 4 arms: physician financial incentives, patient financial incentives, shared incentives between physicians and patients, and a control arm. Within each arm, 10 high, 10 medium, and 10 low performers in LDL-C reduction were interviewed. Interviews targeted reasons for enrolling in the study, the specific intervention elements that helped them reach the goal (incentives, engagement, monitoring), challenges faced in reducing cholesterol, and the impact of study participation on their relationship with their PCP.


Patients reported positive experiences with the study: 65% described personal changes to improve health and 61% reported increased awareness. Views about financial incentives varied: 71% clearly found them motivating and 36% claimed they made no difference. Patients noted that changing lifestyle (36%) and diet (65%) was difficult. Patients who substantially lowered their LDL-C revealed themes similar to those who did not.


Overall, behavioral interventions with financial incentives appear to be socially acceptable to patients who participate in them. Both adherence monitoring and financial incentives were well received, with little effect on the physician-patient relationship.

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