An Introductory Guide to Healthcare Gamification

/ 23 September 2021

Gamification has emerged as a highly effective technique for learning, marketing and brand loyalty to name just a few. But perhaps a more surprising application comes in the healthcare industry, where gamification is used to aid communication, improve service levels and boost patient outcomes overall.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how healthcare gamification works, and how it can help healthcare providers and patients.

What is healthcare gamification?

For the uninitiated, gamification refers to the integration of game mechanics and mindsets into non-game experiences. That non-game experience could be school, university, staff training, shopping, eating or – as you’ve probably guessed by now – healthcare.

Healthcare gamification uses game-like techniques to make healthcare more engaging for patients or service users. At the most basic level, this could be the creation of a game-like environment within a hospital. In a previous blog post, we cited the example of MRI machinery being turned into an adventure story with the child as a hero.

By giving the machine a pirate ship makeover, the patient a pirate hat and the room a themed smell using aromatherapy vaporizers, they managed to transform an off-putting experience into one which many children enjoyed.

Of course, gamification is not just for children. As adults, we too enjoy the release of dopamine that comes from games. That’s exemplified by the use of a quiz and leader board alongside training course videos for healthcare staff. The result? Employees watched videos two or three times to attain higher scores.

The advent of gamification apps

While the examples cited above highlight the basic principles of gamification in healthcare, its potential benefits are far greater. That’s largely down to the advent of gamification apps, which facilitate more strategic, ongoing gamification for healthcare providers and patients.

By setting goals, tracking progress and providing rewards, healthcare providers can encourage patients to complete weekly exercises during rehabilitation or take their medication on time each day. The end result is increased engagement, with users actually wanting to open the app and log their process.

That’s where healthcare providers and insurers start to reap the rewards. When patients engage with an app (and your company), it opens up a two-way communication stream which was much harder to come by beforehand, which leads to a number of potential benefits.

Better health

Above all else, healthcare gamification can improve the wellbeing of patients in a number of ways. Regular exercise, medication or just communication with professionals will all have an impact on long-term welfare. That means healthier users and a better reputation for your company.

Cost-effective

For healthcare insurance providers, healthier users typically means less chance of costly payouts. As a basic example, sticking to the recommended stretches while recovering from an injury will reduce the change of the problem recurring and eliminate the need for more physiotherapy in future.

Boosted loyalty

Let’s face it – if someone manages to improve their health by using your company’s app, they’re more likely to stick around. Not to mention that engaged customers are generally more loyal. According to the Harvard Business School, improving customer retention by just 5% can lead to an increase of 25-95% in profits. Put simply, it’s another tangible financial benefits for your company.

Earned data

Data is highly valuable to companies in all sectors, and healthcare insurance providers are no exception. Earned data eliminates assumptions, fosters loyalty and improves ongoing decision making for your organization. By providing value to users in the form of a gamification app, your company is more likely to gain consent to collect their data and use it.

Improved service

As well as cold hard data, healthcare gamification provides a stream of communication which can lead to more customer feedback. In turn, this provides valuable information to help you improve your services, leading to better customer satisfaction, even more loyalty and better profitability over time.

Healthcare gamification applications

Still wondering how healthcare gamification could manifest for your company? Here are some potential uses…

Rehabilitation

Most people have been there. You’re told to do a set of stretches or exercises on a regular basis to aid recovery from an injury. But it’s another thing actually doing them. Part of that is down to a disconnect between medical professionals and patients.

A gamification app can bridge that gap, making users feel compelled to complete exercises and log their progress. It also creates a cycle of achievement and rewards which keeps them motivated and engaged.

Exercise

On a similar note, we all know that exercise is a must. Whether it’s 30 minutes a day or longer spells whenever you can fit them in, getting active is vital for both physical and mental health. Again, that doesn’t stop people binging Netflix instead of hitting the rowing machine.

Some of the most popular examples of gamification are those which help users get fit. Being able to log your progress and hit milestones activates the brain’s reward system by releasing dopamine. That creates a positive emotional association, making people more likely to do the same again – in this case, going for a run, bike ride or swim. 

Medication

It’s incredibly frustrating when patients don’t take their medication, as any doctor will tell you. It could simply be that they’ve forgotten. Or they might not see it as an important part of their routine if (as is often the case) they don’t get instant relief.

Gamification apps can assist with both problems, as above, creating an action-reward scenario while also providing daily or weekly reminders to patients to make sure they don’t forget.

Mental health

Mental wellbeing is one of the most complex areas of healthcare, not least because we know far less about it than physical welfare. One of the primary issues with mental health is that patients are less willing to talk about it, even to professionals.

Gamification apps can be used to keep track of patients’ mental health, giving professionals a better gauge of when interventions are required. A gamified app tested in 2020, for example, retained 21% more participants than alternative methods like a regular app or a traditional waiting list.

Find out more about healthcare gamification

At 3radical, we provide bespoke gamification solutions for the healthcare sector. Whether you’re concerned about communication, service quality or patient health, we can create an engaging platform that’s tailored to your requirements and your users.

To find out more, simply contact our team.

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