Gamification in Healthcare

What do you imagine when you hear a “game” word? It may be a happy childhood time and having fun with your friends, or colorful virtual worlds and the ability to escape reality, or perhaps warm evenings with your family, tea, and Monopoly. Anyway, this word evokes a warm feeling, but it seems like something not rather serious. However, nowadays, with the help of technology, games are intertwined with many areas, and this interlacing helps people achieve great results in education, controlling their budget, fitness, sales, recruiting, etc. There we come to the “gamification” notion.

What is “gamification” and what it is used for?

 In 2014, Gartner defined it as “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals”.

Indeed, the undoubted advantage of adding a game element to some areas is that it helps the player maintain a high level of motivation. No matter how disciplined a person is, there are many situations in life that distract from the achievement of goals and interfere with the formation of the necessary habits. The strongest of us keep ourselves from the temptation to abandon a new activity on their own, but the presence of a third-party mechanism that will remind you of training, a nice bonus for learning new Chinese words or getting into the top for the steps walked per day allows more people not to lose the way to their goals.

The world will continue to see an increasing demand for gamified systems. In fact, the global gamification market is projected to grow from $9.1 billion in 2020 to $30.7 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.4%.

Gamification is developing in different spheres: for example, banking, education and research, healthcare, retail, etc. According to the study conducted by Fortune Business Insights retail is the top adopter of gamified solutions, holding a 28.6% market share. Education follows closely as the next most popular sector.

Healthcare Gamification

One of the areas where gamification is very promising is the medical field. Health is undoubtedly important for every person, but, unfortunately, for various reasons, not everyone is able to pay due attention to it. Gamification allows people not to forget about activities that benefit their health and make them an interesting and exciting part of life. Gamification techniques not only provide more motivation to continue the journey towards a healthy mind and body, but also provide help relieve stress during illness and gain new knowledge about your body.

For healthcare providers gamifying their apps increases the potential for gathering relevant patient data. Software like this motivates users to give more feedback which helps wellness and healthcare companies find new trends. It also helps to make products that address the needs of the target audience. However, at the same time, you must keep users’ personal data confidential. What is more, it provides the ease of education for healthcare professionals. Gamification allows doctors to learn new information in less time and with greater success rate compared to the traditional learning methods of reading educational materials. Thus, maintaining and improving healthcare knowledge improves their quality of work.

Though this sphere is relatively new, it experiences significant growth now. According to Global Healthcare Gamification Market Report 2021 Healthcare Gamification Market is expected to reach US$35,982.7 million in 2027 from US$ 3,072.5 million in 2019. The market is estimated to grow with a CAGR of 36.2% from 2020-2027. Significant numbers, aren’t they?

Examples of Healthcare Gamification

There are more and more different applications on the market that involve both adults and children in the game process with benefits for their health. Here are some examples of how gamification can be used in healthcare:

  • Timely medicine intake

Nowadays there is a number of mobile apps that motivates patients to take their pills on time. You just set the time, and the application reminds you of it in advance. If you take your pills on time, you can get points that can be exchanged for prizes, unlocking game levels or getting rare items.

  • Symptoms and wellness tracking

The majority of internet users search health issues or related information online and self-assess the symptoms using information and tools available online instead of reaching out to doctors. This is the digital door where the patient’s journey starts. Health providers have an opportunity to position themselves as experts and provide digital health platforms where consumers can engage, monitor their health parameters, and track wellness.

  • Promotion of physical activity

You probably know or even use pedometers, workout diaries, and apps with various running exercises. They also work on the principle of gamification – they praise for new records, and sometimes show how your results compare with other users. This pushes users to become better: to walk even more and exercise even more actively.

  • Help in rehabilitation

Some gaming apps helps patients in rehabilitation, for example, after strokes and injuries. After such serious cases, it is difficult and time-consuming to reach even an agreeable level of independence regarding movement or other activity. Gamified therapies could help in making rehabilitation more fun, stretching abilities playfully and divert attention from pain.

  • Appointment scheduling

One of the critical steps in patient engagement is providing a seamless experience to schedule appointments with practitioners. Digital health platforms or apps can help patients to automatically schedule appointments with specialized practitioners based on patients’ locations and symptoms. Gamification strategies engaging with patients before they reach healthcare centers can lower patients’ anxiety about health outcomes.

  • Professional training

 These games are mainly used to educate medical personnel. Students perform tasks in virtual environment in which they can experiment with various decisions and learn best through trial and error.

  • Gamification for kids

It is really important to apply gamification for medical solutions aimed at children as they usually do not understand the importance of taking pills or eating healthy food, do not want to go to therapy or stay in the hospital. Gamification can help kids forget that they are undergoing therapy or medical treatment. If they believe they take part in an exciting story while taking pills, they would gladly do it.

Final thoughts

As you may see, adding game elements in healthcare solutions can bring a lot of value, still you should not make gamification the central goal. Games should motivate users to become better but do not make them toxically addicted to rewards; they should be fun but also bring users valuable knowledge and insights; they should create challenges that are achievable but not too easy. Always keep your original goal in mind, and game mechanics can be a good helper on the way to it.

And what is your opinion regarding gamification: do you think it is a powerful tool for users’ engagement increasing or is it “just for kids”? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

P.S. Our company Altabel Group has experience in developing different healthcare solutions for our clients some of which are connected to gamification. For example, digital therapeutics solution for stroke rehabilitation that stimulates patients’ motivation through gamification, performance tracking and reminders; VR application for fitness, gaming and health training; online wellness platform for big corporations to stimulate employees’ healthy lifestyles; smart employees’ mental health / burnout detection app, etc.  So, if you need any assistance with such kind of projects, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. We would be happy to hear from you and discuss how our team could help you!

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