The use of financial incentives to improve quality in health care has become widespread. Yet evidence on the effectiveness of incentives suggests that they have generally had limited impact on the value of care and have not led to better patient outcomes. Lessons from social psychology and behavioral economics indicate that incentive programs in health care have not been effectively designed to achieve their intended impact. In the United States, Medicare's Hospital Readmission Reduction Program and Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), provide evidence on how variations in the design of incentive programs correspond with differences in effect. As financial incentives continue to be used as a tool to increase the value and quality of health care, improving the design of programs will be crucial to ensure their success.


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