Kevin Volpp

Kevin Volpp
  • Mark V. Pauly President’s Distinguished Professor at Perelman School of Medicine and Health Care Management at the Wharton School
  • Chief, Division of Health Policy
  • Director, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics
    1120 Blockley Hall 423 Guardian Drive
    Philadelphia, PA 19104-6021

Research Interests: aetna foundation, aramark, cdc, cvs caremark, discovery (south africa), financial incentives, hewlett foundation, mckinsey, nhlbi, nia, niddk, research interests and funding sources:behavioral economics and health, rwj

Links: CV, Personal Website

Overview

Dr. Volpp is the founding Director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) and the Mark V. Pauly President’s Distinguished Professor at Perelman School of Medicine and Health Care Management at the Wharton School. He is also the Health Policy Division Chief for the Department of Medical Ethics and Policy.

Dr. Volpp’s work focuses on developing and testing innovative ways of applying insights from behavioral economics in improving patient health behavior and affecting provider performance. He has done work with a variety of employers, insurers, health systems, and consumer companies in testing the effectiveness of different behavioral economic strategies in addressing tobacco dependence, obesity, and medication non-adherence. He has competitively been awarded more than $98 million to lead or co-lead studies funded by the NIH; the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; the CDC; VA Health Services Research and Development; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Hewlett Foundation; the Commonwealth Foundation; the Aetna Foundation; Mckinsey; CVS Caremark; Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield; Hawaii Medical Services Association; Merck; Humana; Aramark; WW; and Discovery (South Africa).

Dr. Volpp has published over 300 articles including work in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and Health Affairs, and has been covered by media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Good Morning America, BBC, National Public Radio, Der Spiegel, Freakonomics and Freakonomics MD, and Australian National Radio.

An intervention study on financial incentives and smoking cessation among employees at General Electric resulted in tripling of long-term smoking cessation rates and implementation of a program based on this approach nationally among all 152,000 GE employees in the U.S. and was the winner of the British Medical Journal Group Award for Translating Research into Practice. He has helped lead research that serves as the foundation for numerous other widely implemented programs such as a national program on financial incentives for smoking cessation among CVS employees, a prescription refill synchronization program for Humana members, a simple health insurance plan called “Humana Simplicity,” an approach to increase medication refills using enhanced active choice among CVS members, and a new value-based approach to primary care physician payment now implemented throughout the State of Hawaii.

Dr. Volpp’s work has been recognized in a number of ways. He has received awards for career achievement including the Matilda White Riley Award for career achievement in social and behavioral sciences by NIH, the John Eisenberg Award from the Society of General Internal Medicine, and the Association for Clinical and Translational Science Distinguished Investigator Award for Career Achievement and Contribution to Clinical and Translational Science. His teams have been awarded “best paper of the year” awards from AcademyHealth, the Society of General Internal Medicine, and the Association for Consumer Research, and the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Dr. Volpp is an elected member of Penn Medicine’s AOA Chapter, the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI), the Association of American Physicians (AAP), and the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences (IOM). He has served as an advisor to many different health plans, employers, and consumer companies and is a principal of the behavioral economics consulting firm, VALHealth.

Along with Dr. David Asch, Dr. Volpp co-created the Penn Way to Health platform, used to facilitate running behavioral interventions, which has now been deployed in more than 200 studies by investigators from more than 20 universities with participants in all 50 states. He also helped to create the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, the first such health system based entity internationally and was one of the inaugural Section Editors for the New England Journal Catalyst, where he now serves on the Editorial Board. He has served as a mentor to a number of highly successful academics as well as leaders in government and industry.

Dr. Volpp earned his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in biology from Harvard and was a Rotary Scholar at Freie Universitat in Berlin, Germany, where he studied the organization of health care delivery in the former East Germany. He earned an MD from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and a PhD from Wharton.

Education

PhD, University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 1998; MD, University of Pennsylvania 1998; AB, Harvard College, 1989

Recent Consulting/Advisory Boards

CVS Caremark, VAL Health
World Economic Forum Global Advisory Council on Behavior

Editorial Boards

JAMA Contributing writer
Health Care: Delivery Science and Innovation

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Research

Teaching

Current Courses (Summer 2022)

  • HCIN6080 - Health Insurance Dsgn & Value

    This is a 6-week, 1 cu, online course that pairs two complementary course topics. In the first 3 weeks, you will study Health Insurance and Benefit Design with David Asch, MD, MBA and Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD. In the final 3 weeks, you will study Driving Value in Health Care with Lee Fleisher, MD. Strategies for Health Insurance and Benefit Design: Recent efforts to increase the amount of health produced through health insurance benefits relative to the cost have utilized a number of strategies. These have included high deductible health plans, price transparency, value-based insurance design, simplifying health plan designs, and providing incentives geared to influencing utilization. In this course, we will discuss some of the main challenges facing health insurers, efforts to reduce growth in entitlement spending, and research that uses on the effectiveness of different strategies to modify behavior through the use of incentives embedded within health insurance design. This course will emphasize both understanding and practical applications of this knowledge through a combination of lectures and interviews with expert practitioners. Following completion of this course, students will have a deeper understanding of some of the tradeoffs inherent in the approaches insurers are taking to provide greater value and health improvement for their beneficiaries. Paired with Driving Value in Health Care. We explore methods for analyzing value drivers and survey strategies to improve value (defined as quality over cost) in a health care system. Most policy experts agree that by focusing on value, we can align incentives for different groups within the health care system to address our most pressing problems. This course gives you the tools to do that by examining topics including the determinants of value, methodologies for understanding value drivers, and real-world examples of improving value through quality improvement. Through your work, you will identify gaps in quality, track inefficiencies in the patient experience, and ultimately build a persuasive presentation focused on reducing low-value care.

    HCIN6080001

    HCIN6080002

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  • HCIN6020A - Behavioral Economics

    Behavioral economics is a relatively new field at the intersection of economics and psychology. This course offers an introduction to behavioral economics and its applications to health and health care. In it, we will examine the key conceptual underpinnings of the field. We will discuss in detail the structure of the choice environment and the ways that people are influenced by how choices are structured. We will consider the design of incentives and various approaches used to "supercharge" incentive programs using behavioral economics principles. We will consider the use of social incentives and social comparisons as a way of achieving better physician performance. We will conclude with a description of how behavioral economics is used in public policy, as well as the interesting question of when a "nudge" becomes a shove.

  • HCIN6050 - Applying Behavioral Econ

    Analyze a case, define a behavioral economics intervention, sketch a behavioral roadmap, and write a proposal for the intervention.

  • HCIN6080 - Health Insurance Dsgn & Value

    This is a 6-week, 1 cu, online course that pairs two complementary course topics. In the first 3 weeks, you will study Health Insurance and Benefit Design with David Asch, MD, MBA and Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD. In the final 3 weeks, you will study Driving Value in Health Care with Lee Fleisher, MD. Strategies for Health Insurance and Benefit Design: Recent efforts to increase the amount of health produced through health insurance benefits relative to the cost have utilized a number of strategies. These have included high deductible health plans, price transparency, value-based insurance design, simplifying health plan designs, and providing incentives geared to influencing utilization. In this course, we will discuss some of the main challenges facing health insurers, efforts to reduce growth in entitlement spending, and research that uses on the effectiveness of different strategies to modify behavior through the use of incentives embedded within health insurance design. This course will emphasize both understanding and practical applications of this knowledge through a combination of lectures and interviews with expert practitioners. Following completion of this course, students will have a deeper understanding of some of the tradeoffs inherent in the approaches insurers are taking to provide greater value and health improvement for their beneficiaries. Paired with Driving Value in Health Care. We explore methods for analyzing value drivers and survey strategies to improve value (defined as quality over cost) in a health care system. Most policy experts agree that by focusing on value, we can align incentives for different groups within the health care system to address our most pressing problems. This course gives you the tools to do that by examining topics including the determinants of value, methodologies for understanding value drivers, and real-world examples of improving value through quality improvement. Through your work, you will identify gaps in quality, track inefficiencies in the patient experience, and ultimately build a persuasive presentation focused on reducing low-value care.

  • HPR9900 - Hpr Thesis I

    Each student completes a mentored research project that includes a thesis proposal and a thesis committee and results in a publishable scholarly product. Prerequisite: Course only open to Masters of Science in Health Policy Research students.

  • HPR9901 - Hpr Thesis II

    Each student completes a mentored research project that includes a thesis proposal and a thesis committee and results in a publishable scholarly product. Prerequisite: Course only open to Masters of Science in Health Policy Research students.

Awards and Honors

2014-2016 World Economic Forum – chosen to serve on Global Advisory Council on Behavior
2014 Luigi Mastroiaonni Clinical Innovations Award (with David Asch for Way to Health software platform), Penn Medicine
2015 Matilda White Riley Award For Contributions to Social and Behavioral Science, 20th anniversary of the Office of Social and Behavioral Sciences Research, NIH
2015 Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) Distinguished Investigator Award for Translation from Clinical Use into Public Benefit and Policy. “Award for Career Achievement and Contribution to Clinical and Translational Science”
2016 Article-of-the-Year Award, “Effect of Financial Incentives on Physicians, Patients, or Both on Lipid Levels”, Academy Heath Annual Meeting, Boston, MA
2017 50@50 notable People, Papers, and Events from the UPENN Leonard Davis Institute’s First Half-Century Award for 2009 New England Journal of Medicine article and 2010 British Medical Journal Group Award for Translating Research into Practice
2018 John McGovern, M.D. Award for ‘exemplary service to academic medicine’ from Association of Academic Health Centers
2019 John Eisenberg National Award for Career Achievement in Research, Society of General Internal Medicine
2019 ACP Behavioral Medicine Award, American College of Physicians
2019 Michael O’Donnell Article-of-the-Year, American J of Hlth Promotion (for John L, Troxel AB, Yancy W et al. The Effect of Cost Sharing on an Employee Weight Loss Program: A Randomized Trial. Am J Hlth Promotion 2018;32(1): 170-176). Role: Senior author
  • Article-of-the-Year Award, “Effect of Financial Incentives on Physicians, Patients, or Both on Lipid Levels”, Academy Heath Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, 2016 Description

  • Philadelphia Business Journal Innovation Award, 2012
  • Elected to Association of American Physicians (AAP), 2012
  • Elected to Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences (IOM), 2012
  • British Medical Journal Group Awards for “Translating Research into Practice” for work on Financial Incentives and Smoking Cessation implemented by General Electric nationally for 152,000 employees January, 2010
  • Society of General Internal Medicine Outstanding Research Paper of the Year for Volpp KG, Troxel AB, Pauly MV, et al. New England Journal of Medicine; 2009; 360:699-709, 2010
  • Time Magazine Most Significant Advances in Health 2009 A-Z. Work descibed under “I” for “Incentives”, 2009
  • Elected to American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI), 2008
  • Best Paper Award – AcademyHealth Annual R esearch Meeting (with A Rosen, P Romano, P Rosenbaum, J Silber) – “Impact of ACGME Duty Hours on Mortality Among Patients in VA Hospitals” – one of three highest rated abstracts our of about 1700 submitted., 2007
  • Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award, AcademyHealth, for “exceptional promise for future contributions to health services research”, 2007
  • Society of General Internal Medicine Outstanding Junior Investigator Award, 2006
  • John Thompson Award from Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) for outstanding accomplishments in health services research as a junior investigator, 2006
  • Presidential Award for Early Career Scientistis and Engineers (PECASE) – recognized at White House by President Bush with highest honor given by US government for early career scientists, 2005
  • Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) Distinguished Investigator Award for Translation from Clinical Use into Public Benefit and Policy. “Award for Career Achievement and Contribution to Clinical and Translational Science”, 1970
  • Matilda White Riley Award For Contributions to Social and Behavioral Science, 20th anniversary of the Office of Social and Behavioral Sciences Research, NIH, 1970
  • World Economic Forum – chosen to serve on Global Advisory Council on Behavior, 1970

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Latest Research

Katherine L. Milkman... et al. Christophe Van den Bulte, Kevin Volpp, Angela Duckworth (2022), A 680,000-person megastudy of nudges to encourage vaccination in pharmacies, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119 (6). 10.1073/pnas.211512611
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