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Unveiling the Impact of Gift Cards in Healthcare Benefit Programs: Fascinating Facts and Stats from Research, Surveys, and Studies

BY Lucy Fang
Feb 10, 2023
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ADR Blog image - Unveiling the Impact of Gift Cards in Healthcare Benefit Programs - Fascinating Facts and Stats from Research Surveys and Studies

Gift cards have become a popular way for healthcare organizations to incentivize healthy behaviors and improve patient engagement. Research, studies, and surveys have uncovered various interesting facts and statistics about using gift cards in healthcare benefit programs. The benefits of gift card incentives are clear, from increased medication adherence to higher patient satisfaction rates. We will examine several intriguing findings and explore how to effectively integrate gift cards into healthcare benefit programs.

Health Affairs Journal:

According to a study by the Health Affairs Journal study conducted in 2012 aimed to examine the effectiveness of financial incentives in increasing adherence to recommended health behaviors. The study assigned 800+ participants to receive gift cards for meeting health goals like weight maintenance or quitting smoking. Consequently, the study was able to assess the effectiveness of gift cards as a motivational tool for improving health outcomes.

The study showed that using financial incentives, including gift cards, can increase adherence to recommended health behaviors by as much as 25%. This suggests that gift card incentives can be a powerful tool in motivating individuals to change their health behaviors positively. Furthermore, the study also found that the effects of gift card incentives were particularly pronounced among low-income individuals, who may have more to gain financially from participating in the program. Overall, this study highlights the potential of gift card incentives to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

General Internal Medicine:

A Journal of General Internal Medicine study found gift cards more effective than cash in boosting medication adherence among low-income individuals. The study participants were divided into two groups. One group received gift card incentives for adherence to their medication regimen, while the other group received cash incentives. The results indicated that the gift card group had higher adherence rates than the cash group.

Gift cards give low-income individuals a flexible incentive to buy essentials like food or personal care items.

Moreover, gift cards can contribute to better medication regimen adherence by allowing the purchase of items not covered by cash incentives, such as over-the-counter medications.

Healthcare Intelligence Network:

A survey by the Healthcare Intelligence Network found that 85% of healthcare organizations use incentives, including gift cards, to encourage healthy behaviors among their patients. This highlights the widespread adoption of gift card incentives to promote positive health outcomes among patients. The survey indicates that most healthcare organizations use gift card incentives in their patient engagement strategies due to their effectiveness.The survey omitted specifying the types of healthy behaviors that the gift cards encouraged, but it likely promoted actions such as medication adherence, preventive care, and adopting healthy lifestyle choices.

Journal of Health Economics: 

A study by the Journal of Health Economics found that gift card incentives can be cost-effective in improving health outcomes. The research revealed a remarkable return on investment, with up to $3.80 gained for every dollar spent on incentives. Healthcare organizations could potentially see a return of up to 380% for each dollar invested in gift card incentives. This high ROI is attributed to increased adherence to recommended health behaviors, resulting from the use of gift cards. Such improved adherence leads to better health outcomes and ultimately reduces the overall cost of healthcare.

Additionally, the study highlighted the versatility of gift card incentives in addressing specific health concerns. These incentives effectively promote actions like weight loss, smoking cessation, and increased physical activity. In summary, the research suggests that gift card incentives are a valuable tool for healthcare organizations aiming to enhance health outcomes while managing costs effectively.

American Medical Association:

A survey by the American Medical Association found that nearly 75% of physicians believe that incentives, including gift cards, can effectively motivate patients to improve their health behaviors. This is a significant finding as it highlights healthcare professionals’ opinions on using incentives in healthcare. The survey further indicates that physicians recognize the potential of gift card incentives in encouraging patients to take action toward improving their health outcomes. This can include regular check-ups, medication adherence, and healthy lifestyle choices. The survey also suggests that physicians view gift cards as a practical and attractive incentive option for patients, allowing patients to choose their reward and have a tangible value. This can make them more appealing than other forms of incentives, such as cash or vouchers. This is a strong indication that gift card incentives can effectively engage and motivate patients in healthcare benefit programs.

National Business Group on Health: 

According to a report by the National Business Group on Health, gift cards are the most popular form of incentive used in employee wellness programs. This finding highlights the effectiveness of gift card incentives in motivating employees to improve their health behaviors. The study found that gift cards are top-rated among employers looking to encourage healthy behaviors such as exercise, weight loss, and smoking cessation. Using gift cards as incentives in employee wellness programs is a cost-effective way to improve employee health and reduce healthcare costs for employers. The report also noted that employees prefer gift card incentives over other incentives, such as cash or merchandise. The study suggests that the popularity of gift card incentives in employee wellness programs will likely continue to grow.

Incentive Research Foundation:

 A survey by the Incentive Research Foundation found that gift cards are the most preferred form of non-cash incentive among employees. The survey polled a diverse group of employees from various industries and found that gift cards are the top choice for non-cash incentives, with a preferred rate of 34%. This is higher than other non-cash incentives such as merchandise, travel, and experiences. The survey also found that people consider gift cards to be more personal, flexible, and convenient than other incentives. Employees also stated that they prefer gift cards as they can choose to redeem them at a store or online of their choosing. This enables them to choose what they truly desire or require, without restrictions to a particular product or service.This highlights the appeal of gift cards as an incentive, as they provide flexibility and personalization, which align with employees’ preferences.

Journal of Medical Marketing:

 A Journal of Medical Marketing study found that gift cards boost patient engagement and satisfaction in healthcare. The study employed a randomized controlled trial design, randomly assigning patients to either a control or intervention group. The intervention group got gift cards for completing health tasks like scheduling appointments and taking medication. The control group did not receive any incentives. The study showed that the intervention group was more likely to complete health tasks and reported higher healthcare satisfaction. They also reported higher levels of engagement with their healthcare providers. The study concluded that gift card incentives could effectively increase patient engagement and satisfaction in healthcare settings.

Journal of the American Medical Association:


A 2016 study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of gift cards in boosting preventive care adherence among older adults. The study used data from a trial where participants received gift cards to complete preventive screenings and health assessments. The research found that the group receiving gift card incentives had higher adherence to preventive care services. This included mammograms and colon cancer screenings, compared to the non-incentivized group.

The study also found that gift card incentives were particularly effective among older adults with lower income levels and those who had previously not been as engaged in preventive care. The authors concluded that gift card incentives could effectively motivate older adults to engage in preventative care and can help improve health outcomes among this population.

More research with a larger sample size is needed to validate the study’s findings due to its small scope. Moreover, as the study took place in a specific population and setting, the results may not be applicable to other populations or settings.

Incentive Research Foundation:

An Incentive Research Foundation report found that gift cards effectively promote healthy behaviors like weight loss and smoking cessation. These findings suggest that gift card incentives are cost-effective for improving health outcomes. They motivate individuals to make healthier choices. The report indicates that gift cards as healthcare incentives promote healthier lifestyles. This leads to lower healthcare costs and improved well-being. This further supports the idea that gift card incentives are practical and cost-efficient in promoting healthier behaviors among individuals.

In conclusion, using gift card incentives in healthcare benefit programs effectively improves health outcomes and reduces healthcare costs. Many sources show that gift card incentives increase adherence to health behaviors. They also improve patient satisfaction and are cost-effective. Gift cards are especially effective for increasing adherence among low-income individuals. They often find gift cards more motivating than cash. Furthermore, individuals can use gift cards to buy items not eligible for cash incentives, like over-the-counter medications, improving medication adherence. Healthcare organizations and employers should consider gift cards to improve health outcomes. This strategy can also help reduce healthcare costs.

All Digital Rewards is a leading provider of healthcare rewards, providing various gift card options for healthcare organizations. To explore integrating gift card incentives into your healthcare benefit program, please contact All Digital Rewards today.