In this blog, we explore the potential for gamification in healthcare to address patient engagement challenges and effective care delivery. By integrating video games into healthcare, providers can empower patients, enhance adherence, increase knowledge retention, and ultimately improve outcomes.
We will also explore nine success stories and case studies highlighting the real-world impact of healthcare games -
- Pain Squad
- Ayogo’s Empower
- Immune Attack
- Gesture Tek
- Mind Maze
- Game On Cancer
- Child’s Play
- Virus Blaster
Healthcare treatments often require significant patient engagement, which games can be highly effective at assisting with. This synergy between gaming and healthcare is an opportunity for achieving better patient outcomes, operational efficiency, and long-term sustainability in the evolving healthcare landscape.
How Can Gamification Help Healthcare?
Patient noncompliance with treatment plans is a major issue facing healthcare providers today. Studies show that, on average, adherence to long-term therapy for chronic illnesses is only around 50% in developed countries—this lack of compliance results in poor health outcomes, increased hospitalisations, and higher healthcare costs. For example, noncompliance is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10% of hospitalisations every year in the U.S. alone, costing the healthcare system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year.
One potential solution to improve compliance is leveraging gamification and gameplay mechanics in healthcare. Gamifying treatment plans using a holistic approach can increase patient engagement and understanding of their care. Games can also provide a source of fun and distraction, which reduces patient anxiety and discomfort during procedures. Research indicates that gamification improves patient motivation, satisfaction, and knowledge retention. Therefore, incorporating games and gameplay into care plans represents a promising approach to enhancing patient involvement, reducing the burden on providers, and ultimately driving better health outcomes.
What Are Healthcare Games?
Healthcare games apply the technology and design principles of game development within a medical context to improve health outcomes. Studies show apps with gamification elements have 22% higher retention rates. They can serve various purposes, such as educating patients about their condition, motivating them to follow treatment plans or pain management schedules, and better compliance with rehabilitation exercises.
Various game elements are incorporated into digital healthcare tools to drive engagement. These may include challenges, quests, avatars, points, badges, leaderboards, feedback systems, and rewards. As an example, a clinical trial used a mental health app AirHeart which includes avatar creation and self-report scores, has shown the potential to reduce depressive symptoms.
Benefits of Games and Gamification In Healthcare
Interactive Learning Experiences
Interactive learning experiences, such as simulations and virtual scenarios, allow patients to explore and understand their health dynamically and engagingly. Healthcare games have been shown to educate patients about their conditions effectively. Traditional educational materials can sometimes be overwhelming or difficult to digest. Presenting information in a gamified format makes patients more likely to stay engaged and absorb key concepts. One study concluded that games improved patient education outcomes by 42%.
Engaging in gameplay requires focus and concentration, diverting attention from anxious thoughts. This cognitive distraction can be especially beneficial for individuals dealing with anxiety disorders, providing a healthy outlet for their mental energy and redirecting their focus to the challenges presented within the game.
Aside from being useful for anxiety management and patient education during health procedure pre-treatment, games are also very useful in post-treatment recovery measures.
Engaging Patients in Post-Op Recovery
Games provide entertainment and distraction for patients recovering from surgery, improving the experience within critical care settings. One study found that allowing post-op patients to play video games significantly reduced postoperative anxiety.
Enhancing Physical Therapy through Gamification
Physical therapy exercises can be tedious, but gamification is useful for making them more appealing. A systematic review found that game-based rehabilitation improves adherence, motivation, and motor function outcomes compared to conventional exercises. Patients in a clinical trial using the Nintendo WiiFit showed an 83% retention rate and a 78% adherence rate compared to a 70% non-adherence rate from the control group. In a different clinical trial, researchers concluded that patients undergoing treatment using Wii’s Exergames had significantly improved joint flexibility and pain threshold in women with fibromyalgia.
Improving Patient Compliance and Adherence
Games can motivate patients to actively participate in their treatment plans, leading to better health outcomes. Perx Health, for instance, boasts impressive outcomes, with members achieving over 90% adherence to treatment plans. Feedback from participants indicates high satisfaction with the Perx program. The associated Perx health plan estimates a remarkable 6x return on investment attributed to reduced hospitalisation risk. These achievements underscore the efficacy of gamification principles and connectivity in positively influencing health behaviours.
Games play a multifaceted role in enhancing patient well-being. Overall, incorporating games into healthcare fosters better patient outcomes.
Can Games Replace Healthcare Treatments?
Games are amazing, but they do have their limitations. While they can enhance various aspects of healthcare, the human element remains essential for comprehensive care. Games, despite their utility, rely on the guidance of medical and subject matter professionals to fulfil their potential.
Here are some ways games can used as a healthcare tool:
- The data tracking capabilities of digital games give real-time feedback on patient progress. This allows for more targeted and adaptive therapies.
- Games can be cost-effective and scalable. They can make therapies accessible to more patients compared to expensive in-person therapy.
- The automated nature of games allows them to be available anytime, anywhere. This is also a positive for accessibility.
- Games provide instant feedback and reinforcement. The cues and rewards can promote learning in a more enjoyable environment.
- Games provide multimodal engagement, combining visual, auditory, and kinetic components that enhance learning. This helps games appeal to a broad audience.
- Games allow therapies to be gamified with points, progression, customisation, and rewards. This leverages principles that motivate people to take action.
- Games can make repetitive tasks much more enjoyable. This helps patients overcome mental barriers like boredom that reduce commitment to therapy.
Despite their benefits, games may not always be the right solution. A healthcare professional can provide supervision, guidance and is accountable to their patients. Additionally, the time and effort needed to design, develop, and integrate a game-based program may not be the best strategy for every hospital or medical service.
Here are some reasons games may not be the one-size-fits-all solution:
- Patients and their specific needs can be diverse. Depending on the use case, a tailored solution may be required for each person, which can quickly add complexity and cost.
- Patients require emotional support during therapy that current digital technology struggles to deliver. A real human connection is beneficial in almost every context.
- Not all patients are receptive to games and technology. Individual preferences must be accounted for when designing these programs.
- Data privacy and regulatory oversight can be complicated with digital games, and additional security measures must be in place.
Games will not fully replace healthcare professionals but can be effective complements to improve outcomes. But don’t take our word for it; there are plenty of success stories to explore!
9 Examples of Gamification in Healthcare
In Re-Mission, players pilot a nanobot named Roxxi as she travels through the bodies of fictional cancer patients destroying cancer cells, battling bacterial infections, and managing the effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Scientific evidence from 57 fMRI brain scans of patients revealed activation of brain circuits associated with positive motivation, linking gameplay to increased patient adherence to treatments, showcasing the game's effectiveness in healthcare.
Pain Squad transforms pain tracking for young cancer patients into a gamified experience. By becoming "members of the pain squad," users regularly report pain levels. The app's success is evident in improved pain management and engagement among young cancer patients. Studies conducted by their team showed that children who used the app were 90% more likely to be honest about their pain and symptoms when compared to children who used general questionnaires.
Ayogo’s Empower is a digital health platform that uses games to help patients follow their doctor's plan for taking medication and making lifestyle changes. It lasts 30 to 90 days, supporting and motivating patients as they adopt new habits tailored to their health needs. Ayogo’s Empower provides educational content related to healthy activities, connecting what patients learn with real-life actions. The platform also encourages peer support and cooperation through social games, making it enjoyable and motivating for patients to stay engaged and take positive action.
Immune Attack is an educational 3D real-time strategy game developed by the Federation of American Scientists to teach immunology concepts to high school and undergraduate students. Players control immune cells and antibodies to fight off pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells that have infected a human patient. In randomised controlled trials, Immune Attack was shown to significantly improve learning outcomes, with students who played the game performing almost twice as well on post-tests compared to students who only read a textbook chapter.
GestureTek Health created video gesture-controlled displays, transforming rehabilitation and healthcare. Patients enjoy a hygienic environment with touch-free solutions for virtual reality therapy. Research done by their scientific team shows that gesture-controlled therapies enhance patient engagement, contributing to positive outcomes. GestureTek reapplies all of their gained clinical trial research back into making their products more accessible, enhancing their ability to provide successful rehabilitation for patients.
MindMaze is a Swiss neurotechnology company that has developed digital therapeutics to help patients recover motor function after neurological injuries or diseases. MindMaze's digitally-enabled neurorehabilitation programs, combining virtual reality and brain-computer interfaces, have significantly improved patient outcomes in clinical trials. They are currently running clinical trials in New Zealand and the United States to measure the positive outcomes of their technology on stroke and dementia patients.
Game On Cancer funds early-career cancer researchers through game-focused fundraising initiatives. Using popular games and streamers, the charity raises funds for cancer research. The success is evident in the substantial financial support provided to diverse cancer research projects worldwide. GameOn Cancer has raised $87 million to support over 540 research grants.
Child's Play Charity improves pediatric patient experiences through therapeutic gaming. Since 2017, they have funded 38 Gaming and Pediatric Technology specialists in over 33 US, Canada and Kenya hospitals. They have helped educate clinicians on the benefits of using technology like Virtual Reality for distraction and coping during treatment and rehabilitation.
Chaos Theory collaborated with Gateway to Science to create Virus Blaster, a game designed to demystify how vaccines are developed and the benefits of vaccination. The game is designed to teach kids foundational knowledge of vaccines and their positive impact on society. Gateway to Science has a vision to inspire science discovery through hands-on experiences, and Virus Blaster is no exception. The game uses puzzle-matching to promote experimentation and self-learning.
The synergy between gaming and healthcare represents an opportunity for providers to achieve better patient engagement, operational efficiency, and long-term sustainability in the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.
By investing in serious and impactful games, healthcare providers improve patient outcomes and fortify their position as pioneers in modern care delivery. Let’s chat about how you can bring games into your business - book a free brainstorming session with us today!