Apr 19

Gamification of Health is not just for the high rollers

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Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts as defined by Wikipedia. Gamification techniques strive to leverage people’s natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, or closure. Early gamification strategies use rewards for players who accomplish desired tasks or competition to engage players. This is often seen as a negative concept but in healthcare it can be a game changer. Especially when the behaviours you are trying to make addictive will improve the health of the patient or better still prevent an illness or adverse event. Gamification concept is more than just scoring points and earning badges it also involves understanding the elements that keep people engaged.

3 things that gamification can help in healthcare

  • Help patients monitor their disease especially chronic disease like diabetes and send feedback to their clinician
  • Help patients and carers with treatments especially medication alerts and remainders
  • Motivate the healthy to stay that way by becoming more knowledgeable about disease prevention, screenings, and maintaining healthy and active lifestyles.

3 major lessons we have learned about gamification in eHealth

  • Focus on a motivation that’s the user cares about and not others thing they care about.
  • Needs to include a good mixture of self-monitoring and entertainment.
  • Include the seven key elements behind gamification: status, milestones, competition, rankings, social connectedness, immersion reality and personalization as reported by Accenture.

Gamification principles and examples are all around us, whether we recognize them or not. Many people are naturally competitive and like to compare themselves to others and watch their own improvement.  Activity trackers like Fitbits have become increasingly popular just as our fascination for reality television shows like Biggest Loser continues to grow. These applications can make a huge difference to people’s lives. One of my favourite applications is the Pain Squad™ App developed by the iOUCH research team at The Hospital for Sick Children to help kids with cancer track their pain. The App rewards the user  for using it, climbing the ranks by tracking your pain every day. The more you use it, the more rewards you get!

Jane McGonigal, a game designer and author who developed SuperBetter wants games to be a force for good.  In her Ted talk in 2012 she focused on the top five regrets of the dying and how games can help you avoid them.  She developed a game called SuperBetter, which helps users set goals as they recover from injury or illness or focus on living a healthier life.


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