A Brief Overview of Gamification in Healthcare

A Brief Overview of Gamification in Healthcare


Use of games in healthcare has become a focus among startup companies, largely concentrating on combining self-monitoring with games. The question remains if these new gamification products can lead to sustainable modification in healthcare behavior, especially among those who need it most. Gamification developers want to focus on the self-management of chronic conditions. Healthcare providers want to offer games to their clients, but privacy restrictions have added some legal an ethical wrinkles in the area of health care gaming design. Privacy restrictions are making it difficult to design healthcare feedback competitive gaming designs for those who would most benefit from them.

Physical Fitness:

  • An app called Pact (available in the App store or Goggle Play) tracks fitness progress on mobile devices. It is a member-driven system. Members who don’t meet their fitness standards have to contribute money into a fund that rewards members who do meet their standards.
  • The tendency among people to compete, especially in areas of fitness, has prompted the development of many apps that compare performances. Some companies are hosting walking competitions, giving their employees wrist worn activity trackers like Fitbits. Scoring on these trackers is the basis for contests and rewards for fitness.
  • Local bicycling organizations have employed I-Phone apps to create competitions out of bicycle trails. In one case, timing is available for each portion of a hilly cross-country trail and times are monitored and ranks among cross-country enthusiasts who get championships for records broken and first-position rankings.
  • Health care insurers are experimenting with health care gaming. UnitedHealth, a Minnesota-based insurer has recently begun offering an app called “OptimizeMe” which allows people to participate in fitness-related contests with their friends.

Medical Training:

Gaming has been tried experimentally in the graduate training of medical doctors. in a trial at the University of Alabama. A web-based medical knowledge competition program was initiated at the university and “leader-boards” were set up. Reports are that the knowledge game, played on both individual and team bases received widespread acceptance and contributed to medical training.


Mango Health is an app that rewards  people for sticking to their medicine regimens. The system issues reminder alerts and rewards patients with points every time they take their medication. If they stay on schedule, patients can earn rewards such as gift certificates or dollar donations to charities.

Physical Therapy:

Reflexion Health uses a video feedback system to correct the movements of patients practice physical therapy based exercises. The system works in patients’ homes. Movements are modeled by animated figures.  Motion guided technology compares the patients movements with those of the models and gives guidance and correction suggestions.

Most critics of gamification in healthcare are pointing to limitations in game design as a factor that is slowing adoption of health care games on a large scale. The current fitness competition design has only limited application in health care and applies only to a relatively healthy group. Clearly healthcare gamification is only in its infancy.

Credit image: Pixabay


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