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Gaming Healthcare

Game Mechanics in Personal Health Accountability

08 Sep Gaming Healthcare

One’s health isn’t a game. However, some of the most effective learning has a gaming component, but you have to think beyond World of Warcraft. Think about the fact that you are building a system of patient engagement. This is a system built to serve patients, providers and system partners. Smart phones, tablets as well as analog media and events can enable these engagements. And the events within the engagements are focused on “in-the-moment” tasks learning.

To make it successful, you have to deliver to individuals, personalized context. In today’s data intensive healthcare environment, using a combination of data, coupled with predictive models and outcomes, aligned to behaviors measured through digital platforms drives these gamified experiences. Using data as the core of a gamified experience, the depth, breadth and relationship of the experience to the individual changes over time, delivering more effective outcomes.

Game mechanics work because there is an achievement of ROAI – a return on attention investment – for the individual. Game frameworks solve learning challenges. Start with defined expectations for activity that are presented in a clear way. There are the familiar cues that come with game play, the genres, the familiar game player story arcs, even the characters, they all drive people to engage with the game structure. This engagement is also where people derive satisfaction in their participation and feel a sense of accomplishment when successfully completing assigned activities and tasks. And if the engagement is going well, there’s opportunity to move an invested audience even deeper into a gamified experience and help the audience to share and draw in others’ experiences.

Gamification - Healthcare_Fotor

In healthcare game structure, we looked at the patient needs across a sense of control, feeling or finding hope, subjective loneliness and finding some kind of resolution and meaning. We also review the business case of brand ask or as a second line ask, the classic adherence problem, working through a drug’s adverse effects and the cost coverage issues. In healthcare, it’s important to note that making the business goals the game objective usually ends less successfully. It’s hard to make lower A1C’s the objective. The goal has to be the behavior you’re creating. If you create the right behavior, the outcome will be your business goal – not the other way around.

For chronic conditions, we have found that the most successful game design structure must make patients feel knowledgeable because, unfortunately, good information is harder to find than it should be. Making people willing to act involves having the right information in the right context. Enabling a person’s determination involves bringing forward a person’s sense of empowerment-based knowledge. Support is often ill defined and underutilized so finding ways to harness what is largely untapped is important. And success involves helping a person find a way to whatever a “normal” life may be and the meaning in that life. This provides a backbone.

In our work helping design patient education architectures for a patient health engagement company, we experienced the power and limitations of analog group session. There is nothing quite like the moment of in-person, shared empathy between people, especially over a shared chronic condition they’re facing. It’s why programs such as AA work so successfully. There’s a wealth of information passed around and along in patient advocacy groups but the sharing is mostly an oral tradition and not aggregated. There’s also confinement to specific time and place. We see logistical deployment of these programs at scale continues to be limited by costs and the overall perceived lack of interim steps and associated outcomes, which are available via game mechanics.

On the other hand a person can be deeply influenced by someone just like themself and their feedback Turning this into a primarily digitally enabled gamified experience has some conditions. First it has to be the right audience that is already using digital platforms for social participation. There has to be a “want” within the particular condition community for connection through advocacy groups or with healthcare professionals in ways not possible or convenient today – they have to want to participate and come together over shared circumstance. And there has to be the courage on the pharmaceutical, insurance provider or hospital network to fund exploration and development.

Creating game structure can create empowered patients. The threat of the condition becomes shared, “I” becomes “We” and the sense of resource availability is expanded. All through learning to change behaviors through means that are approachable and even enjoyable.

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To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

Rick Shaughnessy
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