Gamification of Healthcare


Gamification is a word that is often misunderstood for fun. While there is a fun overtone, gamification is not a game, but rather the application of game mechanics in non-game contexts to solve problems and engage users. Gamification in healthcare is a newer trend that has multiple benefits for users, providers and suppliers. As the elements of gamification become more accepted and mainstream, companies and organizations are implementing them within a variety of applications to influence their behaviors and engage personnel, patients, and employees. Two areas that will see increased use of game elements are training for healthcare workers (such as nurses curriculum and ongoing training) and for use to get patients or employees to engage and “change behaviors.”

For example heparin, a blood thinning drug, has a high association with drug errors. In order to provide ongoing training to its nursing staff, a large hospital in the Midwest developed a mobile app to train nurses on heparin adjustment. They can use the simulation to train at the bedside, in the presence of a preceptor, or in a classroom setting. Results are saved to find out which nurses reach competency. On the patient/consumer side, health-related apps are being developed to educate, but also to engage them to interact and form patterns of good behavior. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only one in five adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines1. Several apps have been developed for disease prevention. There are also apps for self management of health – that remind people to exercise, track their workouts, challenge friends to work out, reward them for meeting goals and more. Companies can take it a step further and develop an app for their own employees, based on the criteria they determine to be the most important.

Getting people onboard is a critical first step, so clear instructions are a must. Users must understand how to interact with the technology and the rules to make them successful. This is particularly critical if the app is related to medication adherence or administration. A visual outline and examples of how to use the app are helpful.

Several elements of gamification can be applied to apps used for healthcare education and training or strictly to achieve engagement with a user.

Goal Setting: Whether short or long term, goals create benchmarks that can be tracked to mark progress. Users can celebrate each milestone and share with others.

Competition: Allows each individual to compare their results to others. A good example is the high scorer at the top of the leader board. A competitive user will want to take that spot.

Transparency: Allows for individuals to know their status and share it with others.

Feedback: Users get a response to the actions they take in the app, and will know their performance as it is happening. The feedback they receive helps to show their behaviors, both positive and negative, as they occur. For example an individual reaching a goal of 10,000 steps in a day, or a nurse achieving competency in medication administration training.

Awards: Achievements, often in the form of visual displays, can be granted to individuals, as well as exhibited to others, and are meant as a method of instilling pride in accomplishment or marking progress toward a goal. Almost any activity can translate into points or some award system to motivate the user. Reaching compliance, calorie intake, number of steps in a day, and blood pressure, are just a few ideas.

Levels: By using a step-by-step approach, users experience continual progress and obtain incremental rewards towards achievement. For example a diabetic checking blood sugar levels on time throughout the day, or a reduction in weight.

Teams: In many cases teams are a good way to promote collaboration and a sense of community. Each individual is accountable to the group for their progress. By encouraging each other to succeed and reach goals, they benefit the entire group. For example, nurses that must meet compliance can work together as a shift or floor. Or a group of employees that reach a weight-loss or smoking cessation milestone can post their success story on the company’s Facebook page.

Using healthcare apps with gamification elements can have a positive impact on your organization or business. A professional mobile and simulation development company can help you design and deploy the apps you need to train healthcare staff or to engage and modify health-related behaviors in employees.

Resource CSE Software Inc. can develop mobile apps and simulations for your hospital or healthcare organization to train or continue training and education for nurses and other healthcare personnel. Contact us at 1.309.670.7595 or to get started today.

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