Get healthy! Stay healthy! Make good health choices! Earn points and pwn the competition (…your coworkers)!!! Gamification strikes the health care industry…and everyone seems to be benefiting. A recent article in Information Week highlights the gamification initiative taken by Blue Shield of California, so far consisting of three platforms – Shape Up Shield, which focuses on increasing physical activity by participants through an online, social media platform encouraging interaction, encouragement, and accountability, and The Daily Challenge, which goes beyond just increasing physical activity and Healthrageous, which leverages mobile devices to get patients involved in wellness and chronic disease care.
It’s this second and third initiatives which also more thoroughly leverages more aspects of gamification in encouraging healthier choices and trends among participants, with spectacular results.
Using points won through meeting challenges, badges earned through meeting goals, status, and progression amongst participants’ peer group, The Daily Challenge has successfully encouraged participants to making the small changes necessary for overall increased wellness. Adding the mobile element, Healthrageous coaches participants in healthy choices and meeting their health goals, leveraging social media so that they can compete and share their experiences and encouragement online.
What makes Healthrageous different from the other online wellness programs, Blue Shield’s original director of Wellvolution Bryce Williams said, is that its coaching “is related to what I’ve done rather than to some generic recommendation about exercising more or changing health behavior. That enables us to tie our actions to almost immediate feedback.”
These gamification initiatives have delivered significant positive, measurable results.
- In the past three years:
- 80% of Blue Shield employees have participated in at least one of its wellness programs.
- There has been a 50% drop in smoking prevalence and a similar increase in regular physical activity among participating employees.
- The incidence of hypertension has fallen by two-thirds.
- Disability claims are down among participating workers.
- Annual health cost growth for participants have plummeted from double to single digits.
A key element of any successful gamification system is incentives – and Blue Shield’s initiatives are no different. So far during the course of the program, participants are paying “$3 million a year less in their share of insurance premiums, and they’re getting a total of 2,500 ‘health days’ off from work.”
This program has been so spectacularly successful, Blue Shield is rolling it out to customers.
“Doing wellness is hard work,” noted Williams. “It’s hard to eat less, exercise more, and give up addictive habits like smoking. But there’s no reason it can’t be social and fun, too. And once it becomes relevant to people’s everyday experience and becomes less of a chore, and less about willpower and abstinence, that’s when engagement rates start to rise.”
And that shows the power of gamification.
Image (CC) – by danmachold