Johns Hopkins economist Hough to explain irrational decision-making in health care

GREENVILLE, Pa.—During his presentation at Thiel College’s Haer Family Symposium at 7 p.m. March 31 at the Lutheran Heritage Room, Johns Hopkins economist and author Douglas E. Hough, Ph.D. will answer why people in health care, both patients and medical providers, often make illogical decisions.

The event is free and open to the public. The Symposium’s first night is March 30 and features best-selling author and cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar, M.D.

Hough is associate scientist and associate director of the master in health care management program in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. He teaches in the areas of health economics and strategic planning. Hough believes the "irrationality" in health care can be traced to the field of behavioral economics.

His book “Irrationality in Health Care: What Behavioral Economics Reveals about What We Do and Why” was published in 2013. Hough has been a research economist at the American Medical Association and a consultant in three health care strategy firms.

One of Hough’s favorite anomalies is: “Why do patients insist on getting a prescription, shot, test … when they go to a physician with an ailment?”

Patients demanding action when they visit their physician are similar to goalkeepers in soccer. In penalty kicks, research has shown that it statistically makes the most sense to stay in the middle, but most times, goalkeepers jump left or right to block the ball. Why do they move? And why do patients want a treatment, even if it’s not necessary? Action bias, Hough said. Goalkeepers and providers feel like they have to do something.

The Haer Family Symposium takes its name from Thiel alumni Fred ’65 and Jill ’66 Haer, whose various companies have advanced neuroscientific research and helped to develop new neurological and psychiatric therapies. And, true to the College’s mission, the Haers have created opportunities for Thiel students to grow as learners and citizens.

To learn more about the event, contact the Thiel College Office of Academic Affairs at 724-589-2052 or

About Thiel College

Thiel College is a private liberal arts institution founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 25 varsity sports, and a 10:1 student-faculty ratio to more than 900 students. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College remains committed to combining tradition with innovation as it celebrates 150 years.