What's the gamification game plan?

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Patients and physicians each can benefit from gamification: Patients gain a sense of control and connection, physicians can boost competencies. How can games foster better communication between the two groups?

Fabio Gratton
Digital health alchemist

When it comes to gamifying health, most people think of the “reward” mechanics associated with games because they are the easiest to understand, implement, and measure. Reward mechanics can drive behaviors from individuals, but they are not well-suited to help two heterogeneous parties, such as patients and doctors, communicate. That's because their goals are often misaligned. A better approach is not to look at one game mechanic but to study a subgenre of games known as “The Guessing Games,” where the objective is to get people to communicate complicated concepts to other players while imposing artificial constraints.Exploring this genre is relevant because a major challenge in doctor-patient communication is the “language barrier” created by such things as foreign terminology, cultural divide, and time constraints.

Katrina Firlik, MD
Chief medical officer and co-founder, HealthPrize Technologies

Consider these two stark realities: (1) nobody really enjoys being a patient, and (2) healthcare—in general—isn't “fun.” I believe that anything we can do to improve the experience of healthcare, to actually make it enjoyable rather than a bitter pill—for both the patient and the physician—will not only improve how we feel about the job of being a patient or a physician, but can actually improve health outcomes.

It's simple. When we enjoy what we do, we are better at being human. The doctor-patient relationship, then, is more open to becoming two equal humans working together to improve the human condition. Gamification promotes enjoyment which, in turn, promotes engagement, success and health.

Michael Marett
SVP, head of global business development, Worldone Interactive + Sermo

Gamification loosely refers to leveraging game mechanics to engage users and solve problems. Within healthcare successful applications include patient adherence, physician education, brand awareness, and solving complex science. This practice increases loyalty around core content and creates iterative engagement. As digital, social and mobile grow in importance and relevance, so will adoption of gamification. Creating bridges that connect audiences like patients and physicians within these environments will add motivation, deepen interaction, and increase accountability. A disciplined approach is necessary but the prevalence of social gaming can't be denied, so if executed carefully the result can be powerful for garnering collective intelligence and improving patient outcomes.

Christie Shilling
Research analyst, Cutting Edge Information

Medical knowledge is not easily transferred to the layperson, as shown in physicians' difficulty in conveying complex information to patients.  Games excel at simplifying this type of information, and make learning fun, interactive and exciting. Physicians could give patients a game or point them to a website or app at the end of an appointment. This would allow patients to immediately have what they were just told about their health or medication translated into understandable terms. A greater understanding of one's health and the consequences of not following doctors' orders should improve not only patient adherence, but overall public health.


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