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How gaming is changing the game for healthcare

Video and online games aren’t just for youth anymore. According to the Entertainment Software Association:

  • Seventy-two percent of American households play computer or video games.
  • The average game player is 37 years old and has been playing games for 12 years.
  • The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 41 years old.
  • Forty-two percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (37 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (13 percent).
  • In 2012, 29 percent of Americans over the age of 50 play video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999.

But what does this have to do with healthcare? Quite a bit, actually. Gaming is one of the hottest trends in the healthcare industry and its positive effects are being noticed.

According to recent studies, games are shifting the way healthcare providers operate and patients behave. The Journal of Pediatrics, for instance, noted that patients who use games for health are more engaged in their treatment, show 16% improved adherence and are more knowledgeable about their care plan.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has even funded a gaming project to help adult diabetics manage their diet in a nontraditional way. The fund is also supporting other research projects, including alternate reality games that teach substance abusers tactics to prevent real-world relapses.

Four ways to incorporate gaming

For patients, games are believed to assist in healthier, more engaged and preventative behavior. If the research continues to support those claims, then games may be the next big medical breakthrough! You may want to get on the bandwagon and consider how to incorporate games into your practice or organizational development. Here are four focal areas to get you started:

  • Streamline care
    Replace reminding and monitoring with involvement and self-tracking.Kick off this focused gaming initiative with a Motivations Wellness Kit to reinforce the behavior shift required to begin self-tracking. It will also help patients get excited about participating more fully in their healthcare journey.
  • Educate through experience
    Use entertainment and experience to create learning people can actually participate in.From wellness information to leading memory research, gaming has been proven to be an excellent educational tool. Consider your patient base and determine the education most needed and develop games that address those. Encourage patients to “exercise their mind” by promoting the games with exercise kits or sports bags.
  • Fit into real life
    Make tools fun and entertaining so that using them is a “want to do”, not a “have to do”.A poorly developed game isn’t fun; neither is one that provides an obstacle to adoption or use. When developing a game that is user-friendly, be sure to conduct usability and pilot testing to receive feedback on its overall fun factor and effectiveness. Thank testers with steel water bottles or walking pedometers for their input into making your game successful.
  • Reward right behavior
    Use positive reinforcement and immediate rewards to sustain behavior change.What’s a game without rewards! Whether it’s getting to the next level, collecting gold coins or scoring points, games offer immediate positive reinforcement. It’s even more effective if those games have offline incentives that can be traded in for their online efforts. For high scorers, consider jump ropes or exercise balls as a way to say “Great job; keep at it!”

Gaming may be fun, but it is serious business, too. The healthcare industry is using game theory and simulation in many exciting ways to assist patients and professional learning. Now may be just the right time to score some points for your organization and see what all the hullaballoo is about!

“The Entertainment Software Association – Industry Facts.” The Entertainment Software Association – Home Page. The Entertainment Software Association. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.

LaRoche, Todd. “Are You Game?: Gaming and the Healthcare Industry.” Web log post. Pixels & Pills — Thoughts on Pharma and Digital Media. Pixels & Pills, 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.

Hawn, Carleen. Games For Health: The Latest Tool In The Medical Care Arsenal“>. Rep. TechWatch, 4 Aug. 2009. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.

Slotko, Joshua. “Could Gaming Change Healthcare?” Web log post. Phamalive-The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry. Pharmalive, 2 Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.

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