This morning, I read an article called “Stop playing games with healthcare” about gamification being “a buzzy word, not a real fix” for healthcare. The author, Ryan Bradley, sat in on a case competition earlier this year where teams pitched ideas that would leverage IT to transform and improve healthcare.
Immediately, a theme emerged, and the theme was games. “How do we gamify healthcare?” a presenter on one team asked, rhetorically, after listing off the growing toll chronic diseases take in both developed and developing nations… One of the many difficulties in treating chronic diseases is that one must adhere to a strict medical regimen and see it through to the end of its prescription. Chronic disease demands chronic medication. Taking medication is no fun, but the idea that it might be made a game is, at least, as old as Mary Poppins.
Team after team presented ideas centered on using gamification to make adhering to medical regimens more fun, or at the very least less of a chore.
As the day wore on, one of the Merck representatives finally asked, in exasperation, “Why would you make a game out of taking a pill? This will never be fun,” which is true. When the goal is good health, the “upshot should simply be getting well,” she added… Teams argued that the data gleaned from users playing games, competing for arbitrary points to improve their diets or take their drugs, would help pharmaceutical companies design better drugs. “I don’t see that happening,” another Merck rep said, flatly.
The author made some good points about gamification – it’s not ever going to be “fun” to take a pill. It’s difficult to make patients write in food diaries, keep a log of their medication times, or track activities. However, there is a growing group of people who track their own health data already – members of the quantified self.
Gamification may not be the answer for every diet, disease, or drug in healthcare. But for those who are already motivated to improve their health, it may be just the push they need to get on track.