Gamification comes to clinicians

March 17, 2014 in Medical Technology

There’s been a lot of talk in the past few years – some would say too much, and way too exited – about gamification.

Using computer game design and mechanics to teach people, or encourage them to change their behavioral patterns, certainly seems to make some sense. Harnessing digital stimuli and score keeping to make the most of a person’s natural inclination toward fun and competition has some exciting potential benefits.

But it all depends on the game, and how it’s put to use. As Gartner put it in a 2012 report on the phenomenon – which predicted that, by this year, as many as 80 percent of gamified apps would be doomed by poor design –”gamification is currently being driven by novelty and hype.”

The challenge facing project managers and sponsors responsible for gamification initiatives is the lack of game design talent to apply to gamification projects,” said Gartner Research VP Brian Burke. “The focus is on the obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges and leader boards, rather than the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy.”

But, as PwC argued in another report from 2012, titled “Getting past the hype of gamification,” when done right, could bear valuable fruit.

“Enterprise IT agendas are already overloaded with mobility, social media, cloud, big data analytics, security, and other major initiatives, so it is understandable if CIOs are put off by gamification – the use of game design techniques in online business environments to engage and motivate the workforce and inspire customers,” the report read.

But CIOs are exactly the type of people who should embrace these projects.

“CIOs are being called into these conversations much more,” said Ari Lightman of Carnegie Mellon University’s CIO Institute, in a statement in the PwC report. “They understand data at a greater level than any other executive within the organization,” said Ari Lightman of Carnegie Mellon University’s CIO Institute in a press. “They can help design mechanisms, whether it’s gaming or communities of engagement, to identify the data that’s required to put into the systems are working the way they should. CIOs are the ones who understand the data.”

Even at the federal level, games were getting a closer look back in 2012. Speaking at the 8th Annual Games for Health Conference in Boston that year, Erin Poetter, from the ONC’s department of Consumer e-Health/Innovations, said, “We see games a part of a larger initiative.”

With their “miraculous ability to take complex data and make it actionable and meaningful,” games are the perfect tool to help ONC expand its focus to engage consumers, she said. “Better engagement in health can make a real difference. More activated patients achieve better results.”

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