While gamification has been practiced for many decades, we are only now, after many years of refinement, able to see its broad effect and impact not only in our everyday activities, but in our health and wellness as well. Regardless of whether you consider it simply a buzzword, a nice concept, or an imperative method of engagement, gamification deeply shapes how we interact with the world and our health.
While we might not always notice its impact or involvement, it can be found in almost every aspect of our lives – when we are buying coffee, banking, traveling, shopping, career planning, dating, learning or managing our health. Although not all of these have positive effects, the power of how these simple game mechanics shape our habits, thoughts and experiences is undeniable.
By understanding how to utilize its full potential, we are able not only to drive more productivity in business and our personal lives, but more importantly create better healthcare experiences for physicians, caregivers, and patients.
Understanding how we harness these transformative effects to not simply work on us, but for us might result in helping others:
- Finish tasks 135% faster
- Increase retention of information 10X longer
- Increase long-term engagement by 299%.
Two recent examples of how this is being employed in an exceptional way is BMC Emergency Medicine working with Schell games to develop techniques to help recalibrate how physicians intervene in trauma triage, and a new app by Mega Meds that is making patients more adherent by helping manage medications in a new and exciting way.
Both of these initiatives are in line with the thinkingr. Fogg from the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, of behavioral science. He points out:
While technology can’t magically change behavior … it can be a powerful conduit and influence for behavioral change.
Both examples demonstrate how to effectively use technology as a conduit for behavioral change. While we could talk at length about what these initiatives are, it might be more beneficial to discuss the techniques they employ to harness the power of gamification to change the healthcare experience for both patients and physicians.
To discuss what something is, it’s sometimes better to start by defining what it’s not.
Gamification is not:
- An actual game
- The sole motivation to do something or a silver bullet to automatically engage your audience
- Simply the art of facilitating play
As human beings, we are inherently wired for this. Biologically and physiologically, its benefits include happiness, joy, confidence, relaxation, and can lead to re-creation. When we use game mechanics to facilitate play, we become more open and available to insights and inspiration. The brain and body are able to work together to entertain new perspectives and practice new skills which subtly builds and rebuilds our mental and physical structures. Through gamification or play, we learn and change.
We can implement gamification techniques to help engage and solve problems by applying these five guiding principles.
Five guiding principles for implementing effective gamification
1) Purpose | Epic Meaning
The likelihood of engagement is abundantly increased when people know they’re working to achieve something great, something meaningful, something bigger than themselves. Understanding what your customers’ underlying motivations and fears are can help define the purpose you are driving towards. Don’t be afraid to champion epic meaning that aligns with your brand and authentically aligns with your customers’ contextual needs.
(e.g., Physicians in trauma wards want to ensure that they are able to appropriately triage their patients to get the best care. The BMC initiative focuses not on the general notion that individuals make bad decision because they are less informed, but instead on the influence of intuitive judgements (heuristics) of information that the physicians already have, but need to recalibrate to make better decisions faster. This plays on the notion that the physicians already have the information it just needs to be structured in a way to help make them better and faster in the way they are able to triage and help their patients.)
2) Context | Progression | Transparency
Like any good map, a transparent context allows users to know exactly where they stand — in this case, where they are in relation to metrics that matter to the brand, customer, client, and/or user. Both positive and negative context is productive to reinforce transparency and integrity of the experience. Progress can be shown in real time or historically. Successes can be granularly displayed and measured through the process of completing motivationally appropriate tasks. Users can progress individually or as part a team. Team-based metrics and leaderboards can be used to show overall rankings.
(e.g., – MEGA MEDS is an easy-to-use and free medication app that encourages you to monitor and log your medicines through gamified methods. As you use it to track and log medications you see your progress in real-time. It incentivizes use by giving rewards for tracking adherence and/or logging the reasons why you miss taking your medicine. You can also sync up with other users to play games with and against them for communal motivation.)
Feedback encourages people to continue, or enables them to adjust their activities, interactions and performance, based on immediate, real-time feedback. Utilizing onscreen notifications, text messages, or emails can help reinforce this idea. Congratulate users for reaching goals, then queue-up / encourage the next milestone of the journey. Hints, teasers, and secrets can pique curiosity and increase attention and persuasion.
(e.g., – In the BMC initiative “Night Shift” the intervention is designed to increase analogical encoding by having players experience a case that goes awry because of reliance on the representativeness heuristic, and providing specific feedback on relevant and irrelevant cues to help reshape their approach.)
4) Chunking | Progressive Onboarding
People are more likely to take action when complex activities are broken into smaller, more manageable tasks. Chunking creates low barriers to success, which has a positive effect on motivation. In the same vein, intuitive gamification teaches by doing, allowing users to learn how to interact while actively participating. Simple objectives or missions help new users become engaged immediately as they master basic tasks.
(e.g., – Inputting and tracking your medication might seem exhausting or daunting if you have a chronic disease or are taking multiple types of meds. Getting started can be the hardest part sometimes. MEGA MEDS gamifies not only tracking your meds and helping you be adherent, but signing up and getting started as well.)
5) Reward | Status
Letting players advance level to level encourages progression within the experience and becomes an indication of long-term or sustained achievement. Unlock new missions, badges, activities, and rewards as users advance. (Even a witty, well-placed Easter Egg can add word-of-mouth buzz, while bumping up exploration and delight.)
(Both the BMC initiative and the MEGA MEDS app employ the use of levels and achievements to motivate the user not only to return, but be a consistent user.)
While both of these initiatives are still in their infancy, they have taken the benefits of play to heart and have implemented gamification principles with human-centered design that both optimizes treatment decisions and overall patient health.
If you employ these principles into your next project you will discover first hand how the power of gamification can truly change the experience and ultimately help change lives.
To discover more about the impact of how gamification has been implemented and influenced healthcare and many other industries visit 90+ gamification cases with ROI.