Telehealth Intervention for Improved Blood Pressure Control with Targeted Incentives: Using New Technologies and Insights from Behavioral Economics to Increase the Effectiveness of Behavioral Change
Award last edited on: 5/27/2022

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Solicitation Topic Code
Principal Investigator
Uri Gneezy

Company Information

Wellth Inc

252 Nassau Street Second Floor
Princeton, NJ 08542
   (858) 534-4312

Research Institution


Phase I

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Hypertension, or sustained systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) of 140 and 90 mm Hg or higher, is among the most frequently encountered conditions in primary care in the U.S. The estimated prevalence is 30% among all U.S. adults and increases with age to affect 65% of seniors. Hypertension is also the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, global mortality, and ranks third among the causes of disability. Treatment of hypertension is relatively straightforward, but patient adherence to long- term self-care strategies is problematically low. Three important behaviors that individuals can adhere to in order to help lower their BP are 1) Taking medications as prescribed by a physician, 2) Monitoring blood pressure at home, and 3) Limiting dietary sodium intake. Adherence to these behaviors is problematic and currently ranges from 25% to 50%; the current proposal is aimed at addressing the behavioral barriers for these three activities with the help of new technology. In particular, this STTR will develop and test an incentive program delivered through a telehealth app to increase adherence to prescribed BP control regimens, and precipitate reduction in BP. The target participants for the test are a vulnerable population of seniors with clinically diagnosed hypertension in the University of California - San Diego community. The product to be developed through this STTR is a telehealth app for patient smartphones, which incorporates financial and targeted incentives framed in a way that targets specific “mental accounts” to maximize the behavioral effectiveness of the intervention. The approach is to (1) Using focus group to construct an optimal incentive strategy to promote adherence to overcome behavioral barriers, support self-efficacy, and complement intrinsic motivators, and (2) Demonstrate feasibility of combining behavioral economics with state-of-the-art telehealth technology to deliver an optimal incentive strategy to the specific group of patients to promote adherence and reduce BP. The telehealth innovation centers on (a) Immediate delivery of reminder triggers and reinforcement to establish behaviors, (b) Employment of computer vision and artificial intelligence technologies to reduce time and effort costs of adherence, and finally (c) Support for remote monitoring of patient progress by health plans, providers and researchers. Phase II will test the efficacy of this approach in a larger and more diverse population within the UCSD Health system, additionally incorporating incentives for outcomes (e.g., achievement of BP

Public Health Relevance Statement:

Public Health Relevance:
Nonadherence to treatment for high blood pressure in the aging population is an urgent public health concern that impacts individuals, families, and communities across the nation. The resulting health problems, including cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and death, and excessive spending, can be relieved through enhanced remote support for behavioral change using low-cost, scalable, and widely accessible telehealth tools, such as the product of this STTR. This approach has the potential to become widely adopted by health plans and providers that care for millions of seniors with poorly controlled hypertension to help these populations avoid complications and achieve better their health, as well as contribute to a better understanding of human behaviors and their impact on medical conditions.

Project Terms:
Achievement; Address; Adherence; Adopted; Adult; Affect; Age; aging population; Antihypertensive Agents; Artificial Intelligence; Awareness; base; Behavior; behavior change; Behavior Therapy; Behavioral; behavioral economics; beneficiary; Blood Pressure; Blood Pressure Monitors; blood pressure reduction; blood pressure regulation; California; Cardiovascular Diseases; cardiovascular risk factor; Cellular Phone; Cessation of life; Clinical; clinical Diagnosis; clinically significant; commercial application; Communities; Complement; Compliance behavior; Computer Vision Systems; cost; Diastolic blood pressure; Dietary Sodium; digital; disability; disparity reduction; Documentation; dual eligible; Effectiveness; Effectiveness of Interventions; efficacy testing; Employment; evidence base; Failure; Family; Focus Groups; Goals; Health; health care quality; Health Personnel; Health Planning; Health system; Health Technology; Home Blood Pressure Monitoring; Home environment; Hospitalization; Hospitals; Human; Hypertension; hypertension control; hypertension treatment; improved; Incentives; Individual; innovation; insight; Insurance Carriers; Intake; Intervention; Literature; Measures; Medical; Medicare/Medicaid; member; Methodology; Modeling; Monitor; mortality; Myocardial Infarction; new technology; Outcome; Participant; Patient Monitoring; Patients; Pharmaceutical Preparations; Phase; Physicians; Population; Population Heterogeneity; Prevalence; Primary Health Care; programs; Provider; Psyche structure; Psychological reinforcement; Public Health; public health relevance; Regimen; Reporting; Research Personnel; Risk; Risk Factors; Salvelinus; Self Care; Self Efficacy; Small Business Technology Transfer Research; Sodium; stroke; System; Target Populations; Technology; telehealth; Testing; therapy design; Time; tool; treatment adherence; United States Food and Drug Administration; Universities; usability; Vulnerable Populations

Phase II

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