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Engaging Patients with “Gamified” Mobile Care

There’s a new buzzword floating about town. That word is “gamification”. So, what is it, and why do I think it has everything to do with the fastest moving trend in healthcare technology?

In their great piece on gamification, Mashable defines the term as “the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications. The term also suggests the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences.”

Gamification is seen as the next frontier in mobile, web, and social technology. Industries far and wide are climbing on board with the trend in hopes of engaging consumers. In this age where patient engagement is at the fore (read: I sunk a good half hour of my life playing with the symptom checker on the Texas Health homeage) healthcare organizations can certainly profit from this trend more now than ever before.

Using Gamification to Solve Health Problems

The best thing about gamification is that it can be used to solve real-world health problems like diet, fitness, adherence to medication, and managing care protocols.

In a recent article on MobiHealth News entitled, “Should health apps be as fun as Angry Birds?” Dr. Jessie Gruman is profiled as asking developers to explore what their target audiences have to accomplish in their daily lives to manage their medical issues. Devices and apps should simplify those tasks for patients. Even more, Dr. Gruman feels it is important to not just get caught up in the fun and frivolity of gamification. Rather, these health apps should make the lives of those managing chronic disease easier.

In the Mashable article, Gabe Zichermann, the author of Game-Based Marketing, speaks of balancing the fun and frivolity of gamification with the task of making life easier for cancer patients. He says, “I don’t presume to think that we can make having cancer into a purely fun experience,” he says. “But, we have data to show that when we give cancer patients gamified experiences to help them manage their drug prescriptions and manage chemotherapy, they improve their emotional state and also their adherence to their protocol.”

The obstacle that gamified health apps enable clinicians to overcome is helping patients manage guilt over failure to comply. This is the key obstacle patients face when attempting to follow a diet, fitness, or medication regimen. Games help patients manage that guilt. The game navigates patients through their story of successes and failures until they ultimately become victorious.

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