Gamification in Healthcare: Better Choices and Improved Health?

Sections: Gadgets / Other, Lifestyle

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gamification in healthcareThis was the seminar I’d been most looking forward to at the mHealth 2013 Summit, and it disappointed. I’m not sure how you make a panel on games boring, but they managed. That said, there was still good information presented.

The first panelist was Bonnie Feldman of DrBonnie360. She’s a former dentist who’s now moved into the Big Data field, but her dental background gave her an interesting perspective. She’s seen the effects of behavior change and their challenges in her dental practices.

She was of the opinion that gamification in healthcare can help motivate behavior change, and she thinks a good approach is to take the elements of AA and Weight Watchers and turn those principles into an online community.

Her point was that the experience needed to be personalized. If you hook them in with the game and then personalize it to them, you’ll keep them longer.

She had a chart on areas where games are being developed. I’d assumed that most of the games were focused on diet and exercise, but I was wrong. She says most of them are in the area of memory training. This was interesting because one of the themes from the wearables seminar was that there wasn’t enough prevention. Memory training, however, is definitely attempting to prevent future memory loss and dementia. Perhaps there is hope for us!

She presented a few games she thought were doing it well, like Lumosity for brain training, Mango Health for medication management and Headspace, which makes meditation easy. (Im going to check that one out. My inner skeptic isn’t buying it.)

The next presenter was Kimberly Hieftje of Yale University. She discussed a game aimed at postponing teen sex. The game is currently undergoing trials, and it looked interesting.

The game is Play Forward: Elm City Stories. You can see a trailer video on Vimeo

Play Forward is under the play2PREVENT group at Yale University, and their vision is to use video games to help children make safer choices. For Play Forward, the ultimate goal is to reduce risk behaviors for HIV. Because there are few cases of HIV in children under 13, the game is aimed at children ages 11-12.

As you can see from the video, as they progress through the game, they encounter more difficult choices as they move toward high school situations.

The researchers will be following the children for two years after completion of the game to see if the behaviors fostered by the game stick and lead the children to making better choices.

Unfortunately, I had to leave as the final panelst began her presentation, but there were some clear conclusions from the panel.

Game play can influence and even change behavior, but, as with wearables, there’s still lots more research and development to be done before they are widespread enough to be available to everyone who needs them.

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