A minority of the U.S. population comprises a majority of health care expenses. Health system interventions for high-cost populations aim to improve patient outcomes while reducing costly over-utilization. Missed and inconsistent appointments are associated with poor patient outcomes and increased health care utilization. PEAK Health— Mount Sinai’s intensive primary care clinic for high-cost patients— employed a novel behavioral economics-based intervention to reduce the rate of missed appointments at the practice. Behavioral economics has accomplished numerous successes across the health care field; the effect of a clinic-based behavioral economics intervention on reducing missed appointments has yet to be assessed.
This was a single-arm, pre-post trial conducted over one year involving all active patients (286) at PEAK Health. The intervention consisted of: a) clinic signage, and b) appointment reminder cards containing behavioral economics messaging designed to increase the likelihood patients would complete their subsequent visit; appointment cards (t1) were transitioned to an identical EMR template (t2) at 6 months to boost utilization of this component. The primary objective, the success of scheduled appointments, was assessed with visit adherence: the proportion of successful over all scheduled appointments, excluding those cancelled or rescheduled. The secondary objective, the consistency of appointments, was assessed with a 2-month visit constancy rate: the percentage of patients with at least one successful visit every two months for one year. Both metrics were assessed via a χ² analysis and together define patient retention.
The visit adherence rate increased from 74.7% at baseline to 76.5% (p= .22) during t1 and 78.0% (p= .03) during t2. The 2-month visit constancy rate increased from 59.5% at baseline to 74.3% (p= .01) post-intervention.
A low-resource, clinic-based behavioral economics intervention was capable of improving patient retention within a traditionally high-cost population. A renewed focus on patient retention— employing the metrics described here— could bolster chronic care efforts and significantly improve the outcomes of high-cost programs by reducing the deleterious effects of missed and inconsistent appointments.