Healthcare Gamification: Guide with Examples, How to Gamify Your App | Agente

Healthcare Gamification: How to Gamify Your App

gamification in healthcare app development

Gamification is one of the major trends not only in education, but also in healthcare. According to Research and Markets, the global healthcare gamification market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 54.7% from 2017 to 2022. This is due to growing technological advancements, life on-the-go, increasing digitalization, and an increased focus on health and wellness. 

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of gamification in healthcare; we’ll give app examples and explain how to gamify your existing app.

Healthcare Gamification: What Is It?

Healthcare gamification means applying gaming principles, game design techniques, and game mechanics to non-game applications in order to improve clinical outcomes.

In most healthcare and wellness-related applications, gamification manifests itself in three ways:

  • Progress bars used to measure success. They increase the perceived value of the service by invoking progress-related psychological biases.
  • Sharing progress and results with friends or other users of the service. It creates a competitive spirit to elicit better use of the service. 
  • Giving progress medals, badges, stars or other virtual gifts at each stage so that users get a sense of achievement.

More advanced medical applications feature various gamified exercises for individuals with movement impairments, older people, people suffering from back pain, etc.

The most relevant solution topics that include healthcare app gamification are:

  • Self-management medication and chronic condition,
  • Fitness and nutrition,
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy,
  • Emotional health,
  • Healthcare for kids.

Gamification in a health app is a win-win situation for both users and healthcare providers. Users enjoy their experience with an application, while healthcare providers engage users and improve their satisfaction with the app and the brand in general. This, in turn, draws more users and promotes customer retention.

The Benefits of Gamifying Healthcare Apps

For healthcare providers

  • More patient data. When you gamify a healthcare app,  the potential for gathering relevant patient data is increased. Software like this motivates users to give more feedback which helps wellness and healthcare companies find new trends. It also helps to make products that address the needs of the target audience. At the same time, you must keep users’ personal data confidential.
  • Boosted use of healthcare applications. Gamification allows users to track their journey without any kind of hassle at all. It can be anything from booking an appointment and storing medical records to playing a game or adding something useful. Self-services also relieve medical staff from routine paperwork, transferring some of the offline appointments to online and freeing them to focus on how to help more people.
  • Ease of education. Gamification allows doctors to learn material in less time and with greater success rate compared to the traditional learning methods of reading educational materials. Thus, maintaining and improving healthcare knowledge improves their quality of work.

For patients

Gamification techniques allow users to engage digitally and change their minds from the diseases they are suffering from. They also enhance user learning capacity making it easy to understand all concepts with ease, and provides more motivation to continue the journey towards a healthy mind and body. 

Trends in Healthcare Gamification

  • Social connection. The prevalence of social media generates high adoption rates for health gamification, due to increasing needs for social connection in today’s globalized and online-based world. When users share their results and activities on social networks with friends, they become more motivated to reach their targets.
  • Attention to cognitive, emotional, mental, and behavioral health. There are many cognitive and emotional areas that can benefit from gaming theory. For example, there are a lot of bio-feedback apps that help to release anxiety via ocean sounds and deep breathing exercises.
  • Telehealth. Integration of telecommunications and electronic information has proved to be beneficial in supporting long-distance clinical healthcare. This trend became widespread among SMBs around the healthcare industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to unload offline medical centers and serve the patient flow. With the overall penetration of video conferencing and streamlined media, telehealth app usage will only grow in the coming years.
  • Simulation games. These are used to upgrade clinicians’ and medical researchers’ technical knowhow, monitoring, and medical procedures. Immersive simulations are often used to enhance patients’ health by making them visualize the health-related behavioral consequences.

Healthcare Gamification Examples

In this section we have collected examples of gamification in healthcare and wellness applications. You’ll see how gamification simplifies medication management and allows patients to understand their chronic conditions better. Gamification techniques can also make the repetitive fitness routine tasks more rewarding and engaging.

Self-Management Medication and Chronic Condition Apps

Mango Health is an app designed to motivate patients to take their medications on time. It also provides information about various types of medication and warns about side effects and drug interactions.

mango health app - gamification in healthcare industrySource: Mango Health

Manage My Pain app allows users to document specific locations of pain, track when pain gets worse, how long it lasts, and the are of your body that is in pain. It also supplies recommendations on how to combat pain.

manage my pain example - gamification in healthcare industrySource: Manage My Pain

Flaredown is a health monitoring app in which you “check-in” daily and give a brief update on your treatments, conditions, and symptoms and track how these factors affect your state. 

flaredown health monitoring app - healthcare gamification examples
Source: Flaredown

Fitness and Nutrition Apps

Probably the most widely used and well-known fitness application is Health by Apple. An iPhone and iWatch combo allows you to track practically everything, for example:

  • Sleep,
  • Activity,
  • Heart rate,
  • Hydration,
  • Menstrual cycle,
  • Calories.

What’s more, you get different shareable badges and awards for activity.

apple health monitoring app - healthcare gamification examplesSource: Health

MyFitnessPal integrates daily calorie counting and useful nutritional information for users to take control of their weight. You can log what you eat throughout the day choosing products from a nutrition database and see if the food measures up to your goal.

my fitness pal application - gamification healthcare examplesSource: MyFitnessPal

Zero is a fasting application enabling you to set your fasting goals and track how your mood changes during the fasting period. You can choose any type of fasting (16:8/20:4/36-hour/custom fast) and see the number of people who are fasting with you. The app provides information about your fasting stage and how your body may react to the lack of food.

zero app - gamification in healthcareSource: Zero

Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy Apps

Eye Workout: Eyesight Exercise is an eye training program designed to improve your eyesight and relax your eyes. You can get voice-over instructions and tips, track your progress, see week and lifetime statistics, as well as get achievements for everyday use.

app for eye workout - healthcare gamification examplesSource: Eye Workout: Eyesight Exercise

Prehab is an educational platform that teaches users how to take control of their own health through physical therapy workouts. The app gives you workouts, tips and the ability to directly communicate with therapists at the tip of your fingers. You can log your workouts and track your exercise performance.

prehab fitness appSource: Prehab

Physera contains workouts created by physical therapists to build strength and flexibility. It can always help, whether it's rehab from an injury or just nagging pain. You can choose a custom workout using an extensive exercise library and track your exercises, or you can create your own.

application physeraSource: Physera

Emotional Health Apps

Loóna is a mood-alerting app that lets you quickly disconnect from a long stressful day and get in the right mood for sleep. Each night you get a recommended “sleepscape,” which is a guided session that combines storytelling, activity-based relaxation, and unique sounds. You need to complete it to reset your mind and create the perfect mood for sleep.

loona emotional health appSource: Loóna

Happify incorporates science-based activities and games. It helps users to improve their emotional well-being and overcome stress. The app has more than 30 tracks to choose from and tracks user progress to see how their skills compare. All the tracks are based on scientific research from neuroscientists and psychologists at Stanford, Harvard, and Penn.

happify appSource: Happify

Moodfit shapes up your mood when you’re looking to understand your feelings, including depression, anxiety, or high levels of stress. The app allows you to track daily progress, gives visual insights with actionable exercises, and reminds you about your mood goals.

moodfit appSource: Moodfit

Healthcare apps for kids

My PlayHome Hospital prepares children for hospital visits. The children can become doctors themselves: Check a patient’s heartbeat with the stethoscope, give prescriptions in the doctor's room, and change the blood bags in the emergency room.

My PlayHome HospitalSource: My PlayHome Hospital

MyTeeth helps kids aged 1 to 9 to brush their teeth patiently for three minutes, with the right technique for their age, with joy, and without missing a spot. Additionally this web and mobile app motivates children every day and includes all the information required for parents to support their child optimally.

MyTeeth app exampleSource: MyTeeth

Yummiloo is a food-filled paradise. In this educational app kids learn the basics of food identification and nutritional curriculum through an engaging game. Kids are introduced to the Yum Yums, and instructed to gather fruits and vegetables. Yummiloo educates kids about eating a mix of bright, vibrant-colored foods to help their bodies grow.

yumiloo app for kids health eatingSource: Yummiloo

How to Gamify Your Existing Healthcare App

Strategy

At this stage you should single out the pain points that gamification needs to address. For example, problems with focusing while meditating, motivation loss during fasting, or difficulties during rehabilitation. 

Gamification strategy is based on two core principles: mechanics and dynamics. 

Mechanics drives the activity of the user. For example, a user should burn 1000 kcal to get a badge.

Dynamics are the behaviors and patterns of the game embodied in three elements:

  • Constraints: The limits imposed on the player. For example, a user should complete an exercise within a particular time frame.
  • Emotions: They make a game more meaningful and increase the user’s connection with the game.
  • Personalization: Gamification elements are based on the symptoms the user specifies in the app. For example, a mindfulness app offers a variety of meditations and activities depending on the user’s psychological state.

There are two core principles you need to stick to while making an engaging gamified healthcare application:

  • Rapid feedback: Users should get immediate feedback in the form of achievements or rewards, or recommendations from the doctor.
  • Progression: Users should be able to track their progress and compare their initial results with the current ones. That’s why the app should deliver strong analytics.

At this stage, you collect all the gamification ideas and requirements in order to design the application.

Design

At this stage, you need to design the various game elements.

  • Badges, unlocks, points and stickers: for example, for accomplishing a training or meditation session. 
  • Leaderboards: If users are training collectively, they can find out who is most successful. 
  • Challenges: Through continued challenges and quests, users are motivated to continue using an application. Challenges should be regularly updated to provide the user with sufficient options to maintain the motivation to use the application.

A descent level of engagement can be achieved with the help of two concepts:

  • Fogg’s behavior model singles out three key factors that define a user’s behavior:
    • Motivation (pleasure, hope, rejection, acceptance, fear)
    • Trigger (a certain signal that lets a user know when to perform the action)
    • Ability to perform the action.
  • Engagement loop. This gamification principle adds three more layers to Fogg’s model:
    • The feedback a user gives after any action
    • User journey (a particular stage where a user is situated)
    • Loop (every user’s feedback should be followed with the next motivational level).

Implementation

  • Remember that the main purpose of your application is to help people get healthier, be it tracking their activities or cultivating new habits. Gamification is just a hook that keeps users motivated. It should not distract from the main goal that the user wants to achieve with the application. You’re developing a healthcare application with game elements, not just a game.
     
  • It’s also important to keep in mind that gamified health apps collect personal user data, and its security should not be breached. Privacy is of the utmost importance and unlike many other digital privacy and security concerns, healthcare apps are subject to fierce legislation. That’s why you will need to obtain certifications through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Other steps that will protect your patient-users include:
    • Adding user passwords or other forms of user authentication
    • Installing and enabling encryption on mobile devices
    • Maintaining updates to avoid network infections.
  • Decide on the devices you want to support. Gamification in mHealth (on smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches) gives users quick and instant accessibility to your app, whereas gamified apps on desktop devices are useful for older users and those performing more in-depth, time-intensive research.

For the Finale

Gamification in healthcare is one of the most effective ways of encouraging healthy behaviors and helping patients to manage their chronic conditions. That’s why the healthcare providers who integrate gamification techniques into their applications gain the competitive edge. Contact Agente if you want to understand how game mechanics can benefit your solution.

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Author:

Andrew Terehin

Partner / Managing Director

Andrew is the Founder of Agente. The decade of experience in the UX design field, web development, and business development help him to find efficient solutions for clients and share this knowledge with the audience.

Written by

Andrew Terehin

Partner / Managing Director

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