Gamification in Healthcare

gamificationHealthcare is undergoing a silent revolution. Today’s health-tech startups are beginning to disrupt health data collection, prevention, records management, and medical research on an unprecedented scale. One of the less understood drivers behind them is gamification: as these companies build products geared toward solving health problems through gamified apps (apps that include playful health incentives), health data becomes both actionable and trackable in entirely new ways.

Gamification in healthcare is defined as the use of game mechanics (game elements) designed to foster specific health-related behaviors or outcomes such as health data collection, health record management, disease prevention or health promotion. Gamification leverages core psychological principles underlying health behavior and outcomes to transform health data into actionable behavior.

Gamification in health is not new and it has been used for years, but there are a few key things happening now that have brought this to the forefront. First, mobile health apps – or mHealth apps – for health management are becoming more prevalent than ever before; gamification is a natural fit for health apps because health-related apps are tailor made to encourage health data collection, health monitoring and health management. Second, health data itself is becoming more actionable. As mobile devices allow us to gather health data in real time, gamification gives health startups the ability to turn this raw information into actionable health behavior.



Why Gamify Health Apps?

Gamification is a proven motivator. It has been used most successfully in health & wellness to drive health data collection and outcomes such as health planning, record management and health promotion. The key motivation behind an gamified health app is the alignment of incentives between both the user and the company providing the health app.



Key Components of Gamified Health Apps

Gamification health incentives can be implemented in health apps by including the following health incentives: health data collection, health tracking, health record management and health planning. Gamified health apps are most effective when they include all four layers of gamification health incentives. However, some healthcare companies choose not to use all four layers but instead focus on health data collection and health promotions.


Health Data Collection

Health data collection is the most basic health incentive used in health apps. The gamified health app will have a goal or purpose that is directly connected to health behavior that must be uploaded to a health tracking tool such as Apple Healthkit, Google Fit or Samsung S Health. There are several ways that gamification can be used to promote health data collection: tracking, competitions & leader boards, achievements, badges and health check-ups.


Health Tracking

Tracking health is the most important step in health management as it provides a health record that helps to identify health patterns, risks and status changes. When gamification is used for health tracking, users learn how their actions affect overall health which leads to improved health outcomes. Furthermore, gamification incentives for health tracking lead to health data collection and record management.


Health Record Management

Health records are the second most important element in health management because they allow users to track health behavior changes over time. When gamification is used as an incentive for health record management, it encourages a culture of healthy behaviors by providing user-specific health records that are easy to access.


Health Planning

Health planning is geared towards health promotion; gamification incentives for health planning help users create plans and goals that they can actually achieve.

Youth health can be a challenging topic to address, but it is especially important given the health risks associated with youth, with issues such as obesity, substance abuse and suicide.

Gamification in health can be used to address challenges early on and make behavior changes that will last a lifetime. Successful health gamification solutions start with understanding health decision-making processes, health behaviors and health interventions at different ages, because how people engage with gamification is influenced by their age groups. Furthermore, gamification can be tailored for effective health outcomes by leveraging what we know about health decision-making.



How Do Health Decisions Differ From Other Decisions?

Research shows that health decisions differ from other types of decisions because they tend to be high stakes, with a long-term health impact and involve cognitive processing. Health behaviors such as physical activities, health-related lifestyle changes and maintenance are influenced by health attitudes, beliefs and habits. There is a cost to engaging in health behaviors so every decision has both the potential benefit from behavior change and the costs that come with engaging in the behavior itself.



Health Decision Making Processes by Age Group

Health decisions tend to differ across health lifecycle stages. Health decision making processes can be categorized into health promotion planning, health self-management and health monitoring/health maintenance.

Gamification health incentives are most effective when the motivation aligns with an individual’s health decision-making process.



Future of Gamification in Healthcare

Developers in health gamification have the opportunity to continue innovating health technology. As health gamification becomes widespread, health-related apps are becoming more accessible and health check-ups are becoming more common. The future of health gamification will be influenced by behavior research and trends in health technology.


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