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A role for regulatory focus in explaining and combating clinical inertia


Dr Peter J. Veazie, Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, University of Rochester, 601 Elmwood, Box 644, Rochester, NY 14642, USA, E-mail:


Rationale, aims and objectives  It is well established that clinical inertia generates suboptimal care in patients with chronic diseases, and policies and interventions have yet to satisfactorily address the problem.

Methods  This paper integrates the relevant literatures on clinical inertia and Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT) from psychology to identify an actionable explanatory mechanism.

Results  We review RFT and show that it provides a mechanism that may explain key provider contributions to clinical inertia. We then identify two general intervention strategies based on RFT: one that changes individual sensitivity to positive/negative outcomes and another that maintains the sensitivity to positive/negative outcome but frames how information is provided to match the sensitivity.

Conclusions  We conclude that RFT is a plausible explanation to guide the development of policies and interventions for mitigating clinical inertia.