Background: Rates of patient completion of fecal occult blood tests (FOBTs) are often low.
Objective: To examine whether financial incentives increase rates of FOBT completion.
Design: A 2-stage, parallel-design, pragmatic, cluster, randomized, controlled trial with clustering by clinic day (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01516489).
Setting: Primary care clinic of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Patients: 1549 patients who were prescribed an FOBT (unique samples of 713 patients for stage 1 and 836 patients for stage 2).
Intervention: In stage 1, patients were assigned to usual care or receipt of $5, $10, or $20 for FOBT completion. In stage 2, different patients were assigned to usual care or receipt of $5, a 1 in 10 chance of $50, or entry into a $500 raffle for FOBT completion.
Measurements: Primary outcome was FOBT completion within 30 days. Preplanned subgroup analyses examined 30-day FOBT completion by previous nonadherence to a prescribed FOBT.
Results: In stage 1, none of the incentives increased rates of FOBT completion. In stage 2, a 1 in 10 chance of $50 increased FOBT completion compared with usual care (between-group difference, 19.6% [95% CI, 10.7% to 28.6%]; P < 0.001) but a $5 fixed payment and entry into a raffle for $500 did not. None of the incentives were more effective among patients who had previously been nonadherent to an FOBT than among patients who had previously completed an FOBT.
Limitations: Single Veterans Affairs medical center setting, short follow-up, use of 3-sample rather than 1-sample immunochemical FOBTs, limited power to detect small effects of incentives, inability to evaluate cost-effectiveness.
Conclusion: A 1 in 10 chance of receiving $50 was effective at increasing rates of FOBT completion, but 5 other tested incentives were not.
Primary Funding Source: Veterans Affairs Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion.