Time To Get Serious About Gaming

It’s game time

We live in a world that has incredible medicines, highly trained medical staff and easy access to masses of medical information. In addition, pharmaceutical companies and other organizations strive relentlessly to increase disease and product awareness. Yet people are still ignorant about their health, and the healthcare industry struggles to drive significant behavior change in those most in need. When you combine this with the fact that Joe Public is bombarded with more than 5,000 ads a day, it is clear that new approaches to healthcare marketing are needed.

Some think that gaming might be the healthcare industry’s knight in shining armor.  Games are no longer made purely for entertainment purposes. We are witnessing the rise of “serious games” — games that are designed to educate and inform.

Gaming provides a powerful and effective way to engage, educate and motivate people. They can:

  • Improve adherence, expedite the acquisition of disease knowledge and increase self-efficacy, as demonstrated by Re-Mission
  • Incentivize glucose monitoring in diabetic kids, as with Bayer’s Didget
  • Raise awareness of little-known medical conditions through award-winning campaigns like Back in Play
  • Increase cerebral performance as witnessed when my parents play brain-training games on their smartphones

These are just a few examples of what can be achieved. If you need further convincing of gaming’s influence in healthcare, just consider the recent launch of the Games for Health journal and the fact that the similarly named Games for Health conference is in its eighth year.

Gamification vs. gaming

All aspects of life are becoming increasingly influenced by gamification—something you might have heard a lot about recently. Gamification is the application of gaming mechanics to routine, everyday activities. Adding rewards and incentives to dull and monotonous tasks, such as HR training and timesheets, makes them more enjoyable and makes people more motivated to undertake them.

Most people are unaware that they already engage in gamification. You know that progress bar on your LinkedIn page? That’s gamification. The levels and rewards you receive from your favorite coffee shop’s reward card? That’s gamification. Your frequent flyer program? You get the idea.

We see these mechanics more and more with the proliferation of health and wellness apps, but if we could truly integrate them into patients’ (and HCPs’) everyday lives, then we could see considerable improvements in health outcomes and really drive behavior change.

Only fools rush in…

Gaming can be powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility. It is our responsibility to think about the why and the how of any games that we develop.  Research is required to understand what you want to achieve, what game style will resonate with your audience, where they operate in the digital landscape, what will be considered a success, and so on.

Importantly, a multidisciplinary team should lead any development. Depending on what the purpose of the game is, that team might include gamers, scientists, marketers, psychologists, doctors and/or patients. With decent insights, thorough thinking and plenty of testing, you could reach the top of the healthcare leaderboard.

So if you think gaming or gamification can bolster your communications efforts, it’s time to get your game face on and have some fun!


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