Want fewer people to go to A&E? Change the name (Wired UK)


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If you want less people to go to A&E start calling it Accident and Emergency. That’s the view of Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of marketing group Oglivy & Mather. He argues that in health and all other walks of life people are forced to make bad choices.

“A&E is like your best mate,” Sutherland says at WIRED Health 2015. By rebranding it, people would stop putting unnecessary strain on the NHS

These simple tricks could have a transformative effect on healthcare, Sutherland argues. He points to deferred prescriptions as an example of success. Rather than people going to see a GP and getting an immediate prescription for antibiotics, deferred prescriptions can be used to persuade people they don’t need to take any medication.

“If you give people an immediate prescription about 98 percent of people take antibiotics,” Sutherland explains. “If you give people a deferred prescription its about 33 percent. An immediate prescription for antibiotics contains within it a biased choice architecture.”


Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of marketing group Oglivy & Mather

Michael Newington Gray


“There’s a huge rationality bias that pervades everything that we do,” Sutherland argues. At restaurants we are offered still or sparkling water, deliberately removing the choice of tap. The same goes for alcoholic drinks –the choice is always between red or white, not red, white or gin and tonic. Sutherland says we’re often forced to make bad decisions.

Smart syringes, which break after one use, are an excellent example of forcing people to make the right choice rather than the easiest choice. If a syringe breaks it can’t be reused, removing the risk of spreading disease through shared needles.

“Changing the choice architecture of things, strikes me as a fascinating area of discovery. If we can get better at understand the properties of human decision making we’ll get better at understanding human behaviour,” Sutherland argues.

Often, the solutions for better healthcare could be as simple as changing the wording of instructions given by doctors to patients. Sutherland says that people should be told to take 20 white pills and then four red ones, encouraging them to complete a dose of identical pills.

“When we’re presented with shit choice we don’t actually notice,” he argues. Over the next 50 years, Sutherland believes that the greatest source of new wealth and innovation will come from discovering simple choices we didn’t know we already had.

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24 April 2015 | 5:20 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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