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Wellness program uses rewards to boost patients' health literacy

Wellness program uses rewards to boost patients' health literacy

OKLAHOMA CITY—MedEncentive L.L.C.'s so-called “information therapy” program uses financial incentives to promote patient health literacy, empowerment and adherence, with the goal of improving outcomes and ultimately lowering health care costs.

The incentives are paid to both doctors and patients.

Doctors receive payment after they refer patients for MedEncentive's online health education classes, which have been developed for numerous diagnoses.

Patients receive incentive payments after they complete the necessary online coursework and then pass an accompanying health literacy test.

Although the employer can decide exactly how much the financial incentive should be, MedEncentive's six years of testing has found that $15 is “the magic number” that drives behavior change, said Jeff Greene, MedEncentive CEO and founder.

“Doctors get paid an extra $15 for each office visit for practicing our way—it's like a medical home,” with the provider coordinating and keeping tabs on patient care, he said. “The doctor is an authority figure, so the patient-doctor relationship drives the behavior change.”

Likewise, $15 is the sum that has the power to engage patients, he said.

“We have been doing this for six years with self-funded employers in three states. We tested different levels of rewards, different reminders, different tactics, and the findings have been published and confirmed by the University of Kansas School of Medicine,” Mr. Greene said.

One of those studies, involving the city of Duncan, Okla., found that the city's health benefit costs dropped nearly 30% over two years, while other studies showed health care cost savings ranging from $3.10 to $17.70 for each dollar invested in incentive payments, he said.