Behavioral Research Intervention Science Center (BRISC)

Behavioral Research Intervention Science Center (BRISC)

Behavior change and engagement is essential to improved health and well-being.

There’s a lot of discussion and attention around behavioral incentives and the potential impact on patient recruitment and retention for clinical trials; the potential impact on improving adherence; and the potential impact on improving health.

Not all behavioral incentives are created equal.

  • Some incentive programs are designed poorly – which will yield poor results.
  • Some programs are implemented inconsistently – which will yield poor results.
  • Some programs have limited or no funds for evaluation – which stops the work short of the scientific finish line.

DCRI has a unique approach grounded in science and developed by physician scientists to create more effective, outcome-driven behavioral interventions, and ultimately, create healthier populations and communities.

Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP
Co-Director, Behavioral Research Intervention Science Center

"In behavioral economics, much of what is believed in standard economics is considered, however, layered on top is an understanding that people have unconscious biases that sometimes lead us to make decisions that aren’t perfectly rational."


Our Capabilities

The DCRI helps organizations design, execute and evaluate behavioral incentive programs based on the latest science. Payers, researchers, health systems, and employers can access our capabilities in three ways:

  • Precision Incentive™ - Design, Implement & Evaluate Programs for Payers & Employers
  • BRISC Lab – Partner on state & federal grant programs & university health systems to improve health delivery
  • BRISC Consulting – Consult with clinical researchers on how to more effectively run studies, including trial recruitment, retention and protocol adherence

Can Incentivizing People to Drink More Water Reduce Recurrence of Kidney Stones?

New research shows that kidney stones doubled in men and quadrupled in women between 1984 and 2012 (Kittanamongkolchai et al., 2018). Researchers with the Prevention of Urinary Stones with Hydration (PUSH) study have been testing their own hypothesis for several months; namely, that a high-tech water bottle might be one key to reducing the recurrence of kidney stones. The study's primary aim is to determine whether use of a "smart" water bottle to stay hydrated, along with a program of financial incentives and health coaching, will result in reduced risk of kidney stone recurrence over a two-year period. The DCRI serves as the Scientific Data Research Center for the Urinary Stone Disease Research Network (USDRN), whose researchers are conducting the study supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a part of NIH.

Chuck Scales, MD, MSHS
Co-Director, Behavioral
Research Intervention Science Center

"My hope is that through the PUSH study, we can focus on stone prevention and empower patients to make the necessary lifestyle changes to avoid recurrent kidney stones."



Current Evidence on Health Behavior Incentives in the Medicaid Program

State efforts to help Medicaid beneficiaries engage in specific health behaviors show early signs of success, according to a new report. The analysis was developed by researchers at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Engaging Beneficiaries In Medicaid Programs That Incentivize Health-Promoting Behaviors

Medicaid programs are increasingly adopting incentive programs to improve health behaviors among beneficiaries. But there is little information on what those incentives are and how they are performing. This paper shares information synthesized on what incentives are offered, beneficiary engagement, and program evaluation.

The Roles Of Assisters And Automated Decision Support Tools In Consumers’ Marketplace Choices: Room For Improvement

Assisters provide in-person and phone-based support to help consumers narrow their plan options on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance Marketplaces. A recent sample of 32 assisters from 10 states found there is a need to improve the quality of data used in decision support tools and invest in assister programs.

Excellence in Research Award

The American College of Surgeons awarded the Excellence in Research designation to 16 studies from more than 2000 submitted abstracts. The DCRI's following submission was the top abstract in the Surgical Education category:

Just a Nudge: Applying Behavioral Incentives to Engage Residents in Quality Improvement Education
Investigators: Ashley C. Wietsma, Eugene B. Cone, Jonathan Bergman, Tannaz Moin, Arlene Fink, Jonathan C. Routh, B. Price Kerfoot, and Charles D. Scales


Our Approach

We partner to provide the scientific and academic rigor and approach to incentive programs from start to finish to help employers, payors, health systems, clinical researchers and others achieve improved health outcomes.


  • Participant Driven
  • Protocol Backed
  • Performance Proven


  • Participant Engaged
  • Platform Agnostic
  • Full Service


  • Did the incentive work?
  • Did we change behavior?
  • Did we generate ROI?
  • Did we improve health?
When you have questions around incentives, the answers are here.

Applying Behavioral Economics To Clinical Research Design

Charlene Wong, MD, MSPH, discusses how behavioral economics can be applied to research in the design phase. Whether enrolling participants for a clinical trial or a long-term registry, researchers can utilize elements of behavioral economics to better incentivize individuals to join or continue participating.

We Use Precision IncentiveTM to Engage Participants in the Clinical Research Continuum

DCRI believes that people—patients, caregivers, research participants, and community members—are partners in research, not subjects. We believe in taking every opportunity to co-learn. That’s why the DCRI engages people in our research design, conduct, oversight, and dissemination activities, and strives to create a new gold standard for participant engagement in clinical research.

DCRI’s Research Together program provides sponsors and investigators with access to the breadth and depth of DCRI thought leaders who understand the science of engagement and its evaluation across the research and development continuum and into clinical care.


Chuck Scales, MD, MSHS
Co-Director, Behavioral
Research Intervention Science Center
Associate Professor of Surgery (Urology)

Charlene Wong, MD, MSPH
Co-Director, Behavioral
Research Intervention Science Center
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

BRISC Faculty and Thought Leadership

Peter Ubel, MD
Behavioral Science
Professor of Business, Fuqua School of Business

Gary Bennett, PhD
Psychology & Neuroscience
Director, Duke Global Digital Health Science

Eric Peterson, MD, MPH
Duke Clinical Research Institute

Ann Marie Navar, MD
Duke Clinical Research Institute


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