19.09.2014

Mobile Healthcare Gamification, a Trend That Could Save Millions

->Image | VFS Digital Design<-

Mobile Healthcare Gamification, a Trend That Could Save Millions

We have spoken in the past how mobile devices can become a tool to help overcome an illness. The possibilities are vast and varied–monitoring, prevention, alerts, managing treatments–, but in some areas these solutions are not enough.

Professionals themselves complain of sick patients who refuse to take their medications and end up costing both the employers who pay health insurance and the insurance providers billions of dollars.

Jason Oberfest, the creator of an application to manage the treatment of patients, in a way that could be described almost as “fun”, highlighted the problem: in the United States 50% of the medications for chronic conditions are not taken as prescribed, and that costs the healthcare system of the country between 100,000 and 289,000 million dollars a year. What can we do to encourage these patients to follow these treatments?

The answer may be in gamification, a discipline that tries to convert traditional tasks into more bearable and entertaining tasks, through the introduction of more amusing components.

We have seen this technique make an appearance in sectors such as education or finance, but now it is extending its use to health, where there is already a word that seeks to combine both branches, gHealth. Truly, the initiatives in this segment are very interesting. A good example is Monster Manor, a mobile game for children with diabetes where they can get points if they take their medication correctly.

The possibilities of these types of solutions is remarkable, as all of them are aimed at getting patients to meet objectives of all types–including those so seemingly simple, but difficult to achieve, like taking your medication– are marked as achievements. Other features that enrich the application/game include ways to share these achievements with other patients, with doctors–this allows for even more precise monitoring–or with friends and family.

There are some boundaries that should not be crossed, of course: these types of applications could put patients´ private data at risk, and that would violate a crucial component in healthcare management, both for patients and for doctors.

The arrival of gamification in healthcare has been demonstrated in the Gamification World Congress, an event dedicated to these types of solutions in which there were
several talks dedicated to the gamification of healthcare. In a section of the conference, called gHealth Workshop, all kinds of ideas were discussed on how this discipline can benefit healthcare and how it can be used to improve people´s lives. Among the topics discussed were “treatment adherence” of which we spoke, also the management of chronic illnesses, the rehabilitation process and the promotion of health habits.

One of the participants in this congress was Teresa Colombi, who spoke of the psychological foundations of gamification, and how to use the techniques of motivation and persuasion to influence human behavior. According to Colombi, gamification can allow us to “forget the frustrations of everyday life”, or achieve a “loss of self-consciousness or distortion of time perception”, which is precisely the problem for patients who do treatments, that are obviously very long.

Mobile Healthcare Gamification, a Trend That Could Save Millions

“Zombies, Run! 3” has the appearance of a game, but it is actually an application that encourages us to run through missions and achievements.

->Image | Zombies, Run! 3<-

Another interesting case of the presence of companies in this segment is that of Anna Sort, CEO and founder of PlayBenefit. This entrepreneur remembered the example of when joysticks were used to rehabilitate patients´ arms, and in 1987 the Atari console was used for therapeutic effects to entertain children with cancer. There are many varied medical and health applications, but Sort highlighted the example of Zombies, Run! 3 -the popular fitness application that encourages us to run, pretending that we’re running away from zombies- or SuperBetter, an application to “manage our life” that helps us to create goals and challenges to achieve them, such as lose weight, quit smoking, or eat less sweets.

In the end, as Sort indicated, there is a large number of applications, and although many of them will not be applicable in all cases, the diversity of choices means that we have many tools at our disposal that will adjust to our needs. Gamification seems to be moving slowly in industries like healthcare or other segments, but its impact could help the population in the short run.

The mHealth competence centre forms part of Mobile World Capital Barcelona’s Programme of International Competence Centers (PCCI). mHealth works with a three-fold objective: to identify mobile technology opportunities in the provision of health services, to transform current healthcare models and processes, and promote the interoperability of health services in the field of mobile technologies and connectivity, building foundations that make it possible to integrate mobile health solutions.

Mobile World Capital presents a global vision that effectively integrates mobile technologies into the fabric of the industries transforming our lives. Committed to expanding the mobile experience throughout Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain with strong support of the public and private sector.

Mobile World Capital is leading mobile transformation through commitments in Competence Centres, local Industry Development, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation programmes.

MWCapital offers an open platform and exhibition showroom where citizens can understand and experience how mobile is enhancing our lives: The Mobile World Centre, located in the heart of Barcelona on Plaza Catalunya.

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