Wellth: Using loss aversion to drive patient adherence

Wellth is a New York-based digital health company, employing behavioural economics to help healthcare and insurance organisations improve overall health outcomes for their customers and avoid preventable costs.


In the U.S., nearly one-third of prescriptions go unfilled and roughly half of all patients don’t take their medications as prescribed by their doctors.  It’s estimated that this non-adherence leads to about 125,000 deaths and costs the health system up to $300 billion annually in avoidable medical spending. 


Wellth is a mobile app that encourages patients to take their medications as prescribed by their doctors.  It works by leveraging loss aversion, the idea that individuals are more sensitive to losses compared to similar gains (Losing $20 feels twice as bad as winning $20).


How does Wellth work?  Let’s imagine a patient leaves the hospital with a script and downloads the Wellth app.  The company deposits $150 into the patient’s account, which he can keep if he takes all of his medications over a set period of time. Wellth sends daily reminders to take the medication and requires that the patient send a selfie taking the medication.  If he does this, he keeps the money for the day. 


If he forgets, he will get additional reminders throughout the day.  If he fails to take the medication during the day, he will lose $2.  The patient will lose $2 for each day missed.  The potential loss has been shown to drive patient adherence, and the company has completed a pilot in Type 2 diabetes with a large American national insurer. 


As healthcare marketers we must examine all potential leakage points within a system carefully whether it be getting patients to come forward for treatment, choosing the appropriate treatment, or actually following through on the doctor’s orders in order to ensure the best patient outcomes.  What other ways can we make patient adherence easy and emotionally engaging?


To learn more and to watch a demonstration video on how the app works, check out their website!