A Systematic Review of Nudge Interventions to Optimize Medication Prescribing

Usman Talat, Kelly Ann Schmidtke, Saval Khanal, Amy Chan, Alice Turner, Robert Horne, Tim Chadborn, Natalie Gold, Anna Sallis, Ivo Vlaev

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The benefits of medication optimization are largely uncontroversial but difficult to achieve. Behavior change interventions aiming to optimize prescriber medication-related decisions, which do not forbid any option and that do not significantly change financial incentives, offer a promising way forward. These interventions are often referred to as nudges. Objective: The current systematic literature review characterizes published studies describing nudge interventions to optimize medication prescribing by the behavioral determinants they intend to influence and the techniques they apply. Methods: Four databases were searched (MEDLINE, Embase, PsychINFO, and CINAHL) to identify studies with nudge-type interventions aiming to optimize prescribing decisions. To describe the behavioral determinants that interventionists aimed to influence, data were extracted according to the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). To describe intervention techniques applied, data were extracted according to the Behavior Change Techniques (BCT) Taxonomy version 1 and MINDSPACE. Next, the recommended TDF-BCT mappings were used to appraise whether each intervention applied a sufficient array of techniques to influence all identified behavioral determinants. Results: The current review located 15 studies comprised of 20 interventions. Of the 20 interventions, 16 interventions (80%) were effective. The behavior change techniques most often applied involved prompts (n = 13). The MINDSPACE contextual influencer most often applied involved defaults (n = 10). According to the recommended TDF-BCT mappings, only two interventions applied a sufficient array of behavior change techniques to address the behavioral determinants the interventionists aimed to influence. Conclusion: The fact that so many interventions successfully changed prescriber behavior encourages the development of future behavior change interventions to optimize prescribing without mandates or financial incentives. The current review encourages interventionists to understand the behavioral determinants they are trying to affect, before the selection and application of techniques to change prescribing behaviors. Systematic Review Registration: [https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/], identifier [CRD42020168006].

Original languageEnglish
Article number798916
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioural science
  • medical decision-making
  • nudge
  • prescribing/use/costs
  • systematic reviews

Cite this