Financial incentives and wearable activity monitors to increase ambulation after cystectomy: A randomized controlled trial

Urol Oncol. 2021 Jul;39(7):434.e31-434.e38. doi: 10.1016/j.urolonc.2020.11.035. Epub 2020 Dec 8.


Objectives: Financial incentive programs are effective in increasing physical activity for overweight, ambulatory adults. We sought to determine the potential effect size and direction of financial incentives on ambulation after radical cystectomy.

Materials and methods: We performed a pilot randomized controlled trial of daily financial incentives to meet postoperative step goals among adults with Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status ≤2 who underwent radical cystectomy for bladder cancer at a single center. Step counts were measured over a 3- to 14-day preoperative period and 30-day postoperative period using a wearable activity monitor. Postoperative daily step goals of 10%, 25%, 40%, and 55% of mean preoperative daily step counts were set for postoperative weeks 1 through 4, respectively. The primary outcome was the number of postoperative days on which the step goals were met. Secondary outcomes included the number of daily postoperative steps taken and the length of stay. Participants randomized to the intervention arm received $1.50 for every day the goal was met with a 20% chance of a $100 reward if the step goal was met on >75% of the first 30 postoperative days. Questionnaires assessing self-reported physical activity, disability, and social support were administered preoperatively at 30 days postoperatively.

Results: Thirty-three patients were analyzed, 11 in the control and 22 in the intervention arms. There were no statistically significant differences between incentive and control arms for the primary outcome (4.5/30 days vs. 9/30 days, P = 0.53). Results after adjusting for differences in baseline characteristics were similar (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.24-4.19, P = 1.00). There were also no differences in average daily postoperative steps (median 979 vs. 1191, 95% CI -810 to 1,400, P = 0.59), length of stay (7.5 vs. 7, 95% CI -2.7 to 5.1, P = 0.56), or self-reported measures of disability, activity, and social support.

Conclusions: While this trial was a pilot study and not powered to detect a difference between groups, there was no suggestion of any clinically important impact of this financial incentive on postoperative ambulation. While a fully-powered trial is feasible, given the small range of plausible benefit, such a trial would be unlikely to influence clinical practice.

Keywords: Behavioral economics; Financial incentive; Radical cystectomy; Urothelial carcinoma.