Applying persuasion science to save public money

Background

At first glance someone missing a health appointment doesn’t seem that big a deal. In reality the problem is a huge one. Missed appointments in the UK alone cost the NHS over £700 million every year. In the US the number is considerably higher. The question is how to tackle such an important and commonly occurring problem without resorting to punitive, costly and often ineffective economic and system changes.

What We Did

In partnership with a large UK public sector health provider, we conducted a series of experiments to demonstrate how 3 behaviourally informed changes would increase people’s commitment to attending their appointments, we also changed the way healthcare workers communicated to patients about  no-shows.

Outcome

All of the interventions tested were costless to employ, yet the savings ran to many millions with an overall 31.4% reduction in missed appointments.

In addition to widespread media attention (BBC TV, Radio 4’s Today programme, The Times, Daily Telegraph and the Guardian, to name but a few) our studies were published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence included INFLUENCE AT WORK'S persuasion science interventions in a set of National guidelines to reduce missed appointments.

To our knowledge these same insights (and others we have subsequently developed) are also being used to persuade people to stick to their commitments, attend business meetings, turn out and vote and even recycle more and reuse their towels in hotel rooms.

Client
NHS
Service
Consultancy

Encouraging patients to take a more active role and make these small commitments actually increases the likelihood that they will remember making them and in turn, live to up these commitments and show up on time. Without these small commitments these appointments would have been wasted and patients would have to wait longer to get the care they needed

 

NHS Regional Care Executive Director