NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Following Through on Good Intentions: The Power of Planning Prompts

Katherine L. Milkman, John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian

NBER Working Paper No. 17995
Issued in April 2012
NBER Program(s):   AG   HC   HE

We study whether prompts to form and recall a plan can increase individuals’ responsiveness to reminders to make and attend beneficial appointments. At four companies, all employees due for a colonoscopy were randomly assigned to receive either a control mailing or a treatment mailing. The mailings were identical except that the control mailing included a blank sticky note while the treatment mailing included a sticky note that prompted the recipient to write down the appointment date for a colonoscopy and the name of the doctor who would conduct the procedure. During the seven-month follow-up period, 7.2% of treatment employees received a colonoscopy compared to 6.2% of control employees, a statistically significant difference that is roughly equal to the variation in compliance associated with a 10 percent increase in the fraction of the procedure’s cost covered by insurance. The treatment effect was largest for demographic groups judged to be at the highest risk of failing to receive a colonoscopy due to forgetfulness.

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A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the 2012 number 3 issue of the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health. You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

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This paper was revised on October 30, 2012

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17995

Published: Milkman, Katherine L., John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, and Brigitte C. Madrian. "Planning Prompts as a Means of Increasing Preventive Screening Rates." Preventive Medicine 56, no. 1 (January 2013): 92–93.

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