Hospital Rewards Patients Who Take Care of Themselves

March 1, 2014

by Diane Atwood

Diane AtwoodA man walks out of his doctor’s office with prescriptions to lower his blood pressure and choles­terol. He has been told that if he doesn’t lose at least 25 pounds, stop smoking, and start exercising, he’ll be at great risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The odds of the man accomplishing any of the goals recommended by his doctor are not great. Statistics show that only about 3 percent to 5 percent of Ameri­cans do the things they know they should to be healthy, says Susan Walsh, MD, vice president of community medicine and medical director of the accountable care organization at Jersey City (NJ) Medical Center. A teaching hospital licensed for 326 beds, Jersey City of­fers an innovative solution that it believes increases people’s chances of successfully changing behaviors.

Point system

In May 2012, the medical center launched Wealth from Health, an incentive program that allows participating patients and employees to earn points for healthy be­haviors. “It’s a simple system,” explains Walsh. “You get a point for everything you do that’s positive for your health.”

The challenge for many people is that while they care about their health and want to make improvements, too often everything else comes first. Wealth from Health provides a bit of a nudge. “We’re very, very generous with points,” says Walsh, “because we really want to incent people to put health and safety and quality of life a little higher on their list of things to do that day.”

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