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Why Gamification in Healthcare is the Next Big Thing

March 01, 2017

IMG_9583Ever since I bought my FitBit, I’ve been addicted to it. I’m motivated to go to the gym, take that stroll at lunch and walk my dog in the evening to reach my daily step and activity goal. I want to have the most activity among the friends I’m connected to on the app and earn those badges. If I’m sitting at my desk for too long, it even calls me out and tells me to “Get Moving!”

Wearable technology and fitness apps like this make healthy lifestyles more fun. And that’s what gamification is all about – applying games to real-life situations to boost engagement and success.

By now, you’ve probably heard this buzzword.

According to learning and talent management analyst Charles DeNault of Wainhouse Research, gamification will gain even more traction in 2017.

“Not only does technology-based training generally cost less than instructor led, but also the improving economy (at least here in the U.S.) will result in larger learning and development budgets,” he said in a recent post.

Specifically in healthcare, gamification is gaining speed fast.

According to a HuffPost Tech article, Can You Gamify Health?:

“Physicians and other healthcare providers are beginning to ask how they can use gamification tools to help their patients engage in a healthy lifestyle, take their medications as directed and even to feel less pain thanks to distraction that a great game can create. In turn, pharmaceutical companies see gamification as a way to make patient education more effective and more measurable and to increase the patient’s greater respect of their course of treatment.”

For example, consider Monster Manor. It’s a game for kids with Type 1 diabetes in which players earn virtual coins whenever they measure their blood glucose.

And Pokémon Go encouraged people to walk and explore.

Remember the #ALSIceBucketChallenge? Organizers gamified this campaign to raise awareness for their cause.

Medical Center Leeuwarden (MCL), a large and specialized teaching hospital in the Netherlands, provides educational training programs via Mediasite. Its MCL Academy staff training program is full of online instructional videos guiding users through the medical center’s new electronic health records system. Videos range in topics such as how to look up a patient in the system to ordering medical tests like blood work and x-rays.

The innovative MCL training team is embracing digital learning in all forms and is even starting to use gamification.

“We use a lot of different digital tools to make the learning as attractive and effective as it can be for our staff,” said Dian Webbink, leading e-learning project consultant, MCL.

As part of the training on the new health management system, they use a simple tool called Let’s Get Wiser through Sonic Foundry partner MadLogic in the Netherlands. They put screenshots of Mediasite content into the Let’s Get Wiser game, and viewers must answer questions about the content to advance.

“If someone can make e-learning, it’s easy to incorporate gamification like this,” Webbink said.

So, whether you’re a large institution like MCL or an individual who’s made a New Year’s resolution to lead a healthier lifestyle, think about how the principles of game theory can make the process more playful, ultimately leading to better results and understanding.

As for me, my FitBit is telling me it’s ‘Step-o-clock,’ so it’s time to move.

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