Transplantation at the Nexus of Behavioral Economics and Health Care Delivery


Corresponding author: N. Turgeon,


The transplant surgeon's decision to accept and utilize an organ typically is made within a constrained time window, explicitly cognizant of numerous health-related risks and under the potential influence of considerable regulatory and institutional pressures. This decision affects the health of two distinct populations, those patients receiving organ transplants and those waiting to receive a transplant; it also influences the physician's life and their institute's productivity. The numerous, at times nonaligned, incentives established by the complex clinical and regulatory environment, have been derived specifically to influence physicians’ behaviors, and though well intended, may lead to responses that are nonoptimal when considering the myriad stakeholders being influenced. This may compromise the quality of care provided to the population at risk, and has potential to influence the physician–patient relationship. A synergistic collaboration between transplant physicians and economists that is focused on this decision environment may help to alleviate these strains. This viewpoint discusses behavioral economic principles and how they might be applied to transplantation. Specifically, the previous medical decision-making literature on transplantation will be reviewed and a discussion on how a behavioral model of physician decision making can be utilized will be explored. To date this approach has not been integrated into transplantation decision making.