News Feature | February 5, 2014

Gamification Alters Healthcare

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

cell phone

Gamification in healthcare increases in popularity, benefits include cost cutting, better patient outcomes 

Apps to help patients track and manage their health are growing in popularity, but providers are still finding it difficult to patients interested in their personal health for extended periods of time. One possible solution the industry is examining is gamification.

Gamification is "applying elements and design concepts from games to other contexts that are not themselves games," according to Kevin Werbach, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, in an article on Business Insider. "Using motivational techniques from games is part of it, as is creating engaging experiences for people."

Business Insider continues, “In healthcare, however, gamification presents a distinctive set of challenges. Healthcare providers that want to offer games to their customers must do so without violating federal patient privacy regulations - a requirement that can make it difficult to target games to the patients who will benefit most from them. Even companies that are not subject to those regulations are finding themselves under pressure to protect players' most personal data. Then there is the problem of the games themselves: How can companies make them engaging enough to keep customers interested? ‘It's sometimes hard to build a game that's sufficiently serious and on topic, but also fun,’ Werbach says.”

Re-Mission, a game from HopeLab which is played on tablets, laptops or smartphones, is one example of gamification. According to mHealth News, “Users deploy a robot, Roxxi, who makes sure that the virtual patient is adhering to the proper care behavior. The game allows patients to destroy cancer cells and manage side effects associated with cancer therapies such as bacterial infections, nausea, and constipation by using an arsenal of tools like chemotherapy, antibiotics, and stool softeners.”

HopeLab conducted study of 480 young adults who were randomly assigned to play one of five different versions of Re-Mission. “Game versions differed in the amount of ‘back story’ plot provided in cut-scenes (narrative) and the amount of information provided about the patients the player seeks to save (empathy). Outcomes examined include the player’s emotional state, cancer-related knowledge, self-efficacy, and behavioral intentions regarding cancer,” said researchers. According to HopeLab, data are being analyzed and prepared for publication.

Another study on the effects of Re-Mission has been published on Pediatrics, and it showed improved behavioral and psychological factors needed for successful cancer treatment. “In the study, participants given Re-Mission maintained higher levels of chemotherapy in their blood and took their antibiotics more consistently than those in the control group, demonstrating the game’s impact at a biological level. Participants given Re-Mission also showed faster acquisition of cancer-related knowledge and faster increase in self-efficacy.”

Researchers concluded, “The video-game intervention significantly improved treatment adherence and indicators of cancer-related self-efficacy and knowledge in adolescents and young adults who were undergoing cancer therapy. The findings support current efforts to develop effective video-game interventions for education and training in health care.”

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