Aetna considers paying patients to take meds

Working through its non-profit foundation, health plan Aetna is funding research to determine whether a daily lottery offering cash prizes will help improve patients' compliance with medication regimens. The Aetna Foundation gave researchers at the University of Pennsylvania a $400,000 grant to study this approach, which will offer patients prizes of $10 and $100 for taking their medication by the book. They hope to address the huge problem of non-compliance with medication, which continues to frustrate health plans. According to some research, within a year after beginning a medication, only 50 percent of patients are taking their meds as prescribed.

To test the daily lottery approach, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania will conduct a two-part randomized trial with 100 participants, including 50 who are in the lottery and 50 who aren't. An electronic monitor will track all 100 of the subjects to see whether they take wafarin as prescribed. The 50 people enrolled in the lottery will have a one-in-ten shot of winning $10 every day they take their medication, and a one-in-100 chance of winning $100. Every day, subjects will get a text messages saying whether he or she won the lottery, or if the dose wasn't taken, whether they would have won.

If the approach works, Aetna will attempt to incorporate it into their day-to-day operations, executives say.

To learn more about this effort:
- read this AMNews piece

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