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Experimental and behavioral economics of healthcare

Research Topic: 
Health Economics & Policy
Ellen Green

Experimental and behavioral economics provide a paradigm for informative research in many areas of economics such as industrial organization, public economics, and labor economics. In health economics, however, the experimental method is a rather new approach. This is surprising in that Fuchs (2000) and Frank (2007) proposed using behavioral economics and experimental methods to complement traditional approaches in healthcare research more than a decade ago. Recently, however, the approach became a focus of attention and a growing number of research topics in health economics are currently being addressed by experimental and behavioral research.

Experimental methods and behavioral economics can give new insights into the behavior of actors in the increasingly complex market institutions in the healthcare sector. This is due to the advantageous features of experimental methods. To name only the most important ones: Controlled experiments can implement ceteris paribus variations in environment and incentives, and provide robustness checks on empirical outcomes. Laboratory experiments can provide low-cost “test bed” studies that guide design of large-scale field studies and proposed changes in public policy towards healthcare. 1
This special issue provides an overview of the state of the art showing that the interaction between experimental and health economics enriches our understanding of decision-making in the healthcare market and encourages novel methods of healthcare research. Topics included are clinical decision support, physician incentives in healthcare, healthcare systems and insurance, healthcare delivery, and public health.