Behavioral economics and diabetic eye exams.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common microvascular complication of diabetes mellitus and is the leading cause of new blindness among working-age adults in the United States. Timely intervention to prevent vision loss is possible with early detection by regular eye examinations. Unfortunately, adherence to recommended annual diabetic eye exams is poor. Public health interventions have targeted traditional barriers to care, such as cost and transportation, with limited success. Behavioral economics provides an additional framework of concepts and tools to understand low screening rates and to promote regular diabetic eye exams for populations at risk. In particular, behavioral economics outlines biases and heuristics that affect decision-making and underlie pervasive barriers to care, such as not viewing diabetic eye exams as a priority or perceiving oneself as too healthy to need an examination. In this review, we examine the literature on the use of behavioral economics interventions to promote regular diabetic eye exams. From the results of the included studies, we outline how concepts from behavioral economics can improve eye examination rates. In particular, the default bias, present bias, and self-serving bias play a significant role in precluding regular diabetic eye examinations. Potential tools to mitigate these biases include leveraging default options, using reminder messages, providing behavioral coaching, applying commitment contracts, offering financial incentives, and personalizing health messages. When combined with traditional public health campaigns, insights from behavioral economics can improve understanding of pervasive barriers to care and offer additional strategies to promote regular preventive eye care for patients with diabetes.
Williams, AM; Liu, PJ; Muir, KW; Waxman, EL
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