Playing the LTC lottery

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Playing the LTC lottery

After reading a recent New York Times Opinion piece about the uses of lotteries to solve social problems, I began contemplating their potential application to long-term care.

According to “For Better Citizenship, Scratch and Win,” lotteries have been used to encourage voting, reduce speeding and even to attend to health needs such as getting tuberculosis screening, practicing safer sex and keeping medical appointments.

In one example, to combat tax evasion on small purchases, the Chinese government encouraged people to obtain receipts by turning them into scratch-off lottery tickets — leading to tax revenue amounting to 30 times the cost of the lottery prizes!

The theory is that lotteries are appealing because people want rewards and they enjoy playing games. As the CEO of a company that designs games for businesses put it, “They could… have everyone get an incentive for $15. But they’d get better results for the same average price by having variability — some get $10, some get $100.”

An element of fun might be a welcome addition to what’s typically the very serious business of long-term care. Presenting awards with humor and the thrill of winning a game could help offset the strain of coping with the ongoing losses inherent in direct care.

In addition, offering a lottery might appeal to a larger pool of workers. I often hear about the challenges of inducing less-engaged employees to improve their performance. Typical rewards, such as “employee of the month” programs, tend to honor those who are already committed and doing their best. Perhaps a lottery would engage disenfranchised workers in a way that other incentives have not.

Here are some playful ideas for applying lottery-style encouragement to long-term care:

1. The Show Up on Time Game: In the SHOUT Game, all employees who arrive to work on a timely basis for the week get entered into a lottery, which takes place at the end of the month. Each employee therefore has the opportunity to enter four or five times, depending on their timeliness and the number of weeks in the month. Winners of the drawing would get various prizes, which could be monetary, gift certificates to local enterprises or perks such as a good parking spot.

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Playing the LTC lottery


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