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Variable effectiveness of stepwise implementation of nudge-type interventions to improve provider compliance with intraoperative low tidal volume ventilation
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  • Published on:
    Beware the pitfalls of nudge theory

    O’Reilly-Shah et al. present a novel approach to quality improvement in anaesthesia by attempting to elicit change in practice using ‘nudge theory’ derived from the field of behavioural economics [1]. Translating new research evidence into common clinical practice is an important quality issue and cheap and effective strategies to achieve this are of interest. O’Reilly-Shah et al. hypothesised that using ‘nudge-type’ interventions, an audit-feedback dashboard as well as changes to mechanical ventilator default settings, might improve anaesthesia provider compliance with this ‘lung protective’ ventilation strategy in the general operating theatre environment.
    I disagree with the conclusion that the authors have drawn, that these interventions might improve clinical and financial outcomes. My disagreement stems from the clinical rationale of the intervention, which overlaps onto the assumptions built into the ‘nudge theory’ of behavioural economics itself.
    Sunstein & Thaler, who have influenced large scale policy making in several countries, describe nudge theory as a form of choice architecture that “alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives” [2, 3]. Their philosophy is described as “libertarian paternalism”, as it influences choices that make people better off as judged by themselves, while preserving their freedom to choose otherwise. This is presumably what the interve...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.