February 7, 2020: Using Nudges to Improve the Delivery of Health Care (Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA)


Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA
Ralph Muller Presidential Assistant Professor
Perelman School of Medicine & Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania
Director, Penn Medicine Nudge Unit


Using Nudges to Improve the Delivery of Health Care


Motivational nudges; Medical decision-making; Behavioral economics; Nudge units; Health behaviors

Key Points

  • Nudges remind, guide, or motivate a decision. In a healthcare setting, medical nudges use principles of behavioral economics and psychology to “steer medical decision-making toward higher value and improved patient outcomes.”
  • A “nudge unit” is a behavioral design team that systematically tests ways to improve decisions and change behavior.
  • It is important that medical nudges be testable and rigorously evaluated. Well-designed nudges have the right fit for the context, are aligned with health system and patient care goals, are scalable, and make a significant impact.
  • Nudges can be used to help clinicians promote evidence-based care, and help patients increase engagement and change health behaviors.

Discussion Themes

Nudges are prevalent in other industries; for example, when asked to add trip insurance to the purchase of an airfare.

In a healthcare setting, effective nudges can help achieve care delivery priorities (for example, improved screening, follow up, adherence) as well as reduce clinician burden.

Understanding the health system’s culture and workflow is essential for the sustainability and effectiveness of nudges.

Read more about nudges in Using Nudges to Improve Value by Increasing Imaging-Based Cancer Screening (Patel et al, Journal of the American College of Radiology, 2019).

#pctGR, @Collaboratory1, @miteshspatel, @PennNudgeUnit