Study: Incentives Can Boost Enrollment in Online Health Programs

July 30, 2014 in News

Incentives can help prompt individuals to enroll in online health management programs, but they do very little to encourage long-term engagement, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, MobiHealthNews reports (Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 7/29).

Details of Study

For the study, researchers from the University of Toronto examined 142,726 individuals who were invited to subscribe to the Web-based health intervention program My Health eSupport, which offers tips for healthy lifestyle changes. The researchers intended to determine what influence rewards programs have on enrollment and engagement.

More than half of the study participants — 73,327 people — were offered 10 frequent flier miles for taking a health risk assessment and an additional 10 miles for signing up for the program. Ongoing rewards were not offered. The control group — which included 69,399 people — was not offered rewards (Liu et al., JMIR, July 2014).

Study Findings

Overall, the researchers found that people receiving rewards were 27 times more likely to enroll in the online program. Specifically:

  • 52% of the group offered rewards enrolled; and
  • 4% of the control group enrolled.

Participation declined after the initial enrollment period. However, people with incentives still were more likely to act. When participants were asked via the program to select a “priority area for lifestyle change,” about:

  • 13% of the rewards group completed the step; and
  • 8% in the control group completed the step (MobiHealthNews, 7/29).

Of the remaining participants, about 21% of the rewards group and 24% of the control group completed the second assessment six weeks into the experiment.

The researchers concluded that “a single exposure of loyalty rewards significantly influenced enrollment” in online health management programs.

However, they added that “additional strategies are required to maintain engagement” (JMIR, July 2014).

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