Gamification in Healthcare – Trends in Scandinavia

What is gamification

When we think of games we mostly think of them as a source of fun and entertainment, but they can also be used to improve businesses and solve real-world problems which is where gamification comes in. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts where the goal is to engage the users in a new and creative way. It prompts people to engage in something, whether as part of a marketing and advertising strategy or tracking fitness goals while competing with others and receiving some type of rewards or points for their accomplishments. The goal is to create a long-term motivation of an individual or group to perform a task. Gamification can make certain tedious tasks a lot more fun and engaging and is often used as a promotion and marketing strategy to encourage people to pay attention to certain products. 70 percent of Global 2000 companies already have at least one gamified application to drive engagement in their operations, and analysts predict that the gamification market will grow from 1.5 billion USD in 2015 to 11 billion USD in 2020.

How to use it in healthcare

So how can gamification be of help in a healthcare context?

In this day and age anyone with a smartphone can easily download different games designed to improve people’s health in different ways such as helping them follow an exercise plan, lose weight or manage chronic conditions. For example if a doctor prescribes a particular treatment for a patient where he needs to take medication at certain times and in certain amounts, eat certain foods, do physical activity etc., an app can help this patient follow this regime rewarding him or her for every successful task. The reward can be either to get points or to receive different titles such as starting as a beginner and advancing to a guru level.  One recent and most popular example is the mobile game Pokemon Go where the player is forced to walk a lot in order to complete tasks (catching Pokemons) and the more they walk and explore, the higher the rating they have (Pokemaster).

Mobile games are also being made for developing new treatments, diagnosing diseases such as malaria (MalariaSpot) or helping doctors to determine the shape of the AIDS virus. A great example is the computer game Foldit where ordinary gamers with virus researchers determined the shape of one of the virus that causes AIDS, the M-PMV virus, in three weeks which researchers had been trying to resolve for 15 years.

Examples in Sweden and Scandinavia

Scandinavian region is a great example where the potential for including gamification aspect in improving healthcare is very high. They have high IT and medical knowledge, and a large passion for gaming. A Swedish gamification expert Ola Janson is convinced that gamification should be used to improve Swedish health care in several ways. It can be a novel method for creating change in hospitals and health centers, as well as a way for creating long-term motivation for patients to take care of their health – whether it involves preventive work or to monitor a chronic disease.

A great example of gamification being a method for creating changes in health institutions is the Scandinavian (Norway and Sweden) company Attensi. They provide 3D gamified simulations of different healthcare processes such as learning the new workflow in an Emergency Department, training the care providers in the psychiatric ward to provide better care for youths with behavioral disorders, assisting health organizations in implementing new procedures, systems, training new employees etc.

Sidekick mobile application is another example of Scandinavian health gamification with the goal of leading its users towards a healthier lifestyle designed by specialists in lifestyle diseases. It prompts users to improve their diet, be active and reduce stress with mediation where they can keep track of their vitals and see improvements over time all the while competing with other users and collecting points and different rewards for tasks well done.

THE AUTHOR

Sandro Falan

Journalist

Based in Stockholm, I have high interest in digital health, data science, technological innovations and writing different kinds of interesting content. Additionally I have a lot of experience in academic and business writing as suggested from my many years of university education where I have obtained 2 master degrees and the third one nearly completed. My background is within technical (IT), business (industrial management), and health science (Health Informatics at Karolinska Institutet) areas with the goal of combining this gained knowledge and applying it in the healthcare sector.

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