Speakers Put Gamification in the Spotlight at Data Institute

This monthly blog highlights and discuss emerging trends and challenges related to healthcare data and its ever changing life cycle.


By Lesley Kadlec, MA, RHIA, CHDA

One of the hottest new topics in the realm of healthcare data right now is the gamification of healthcare. As such, it comes as no surprise that gamification was the subject of both presentations and discussion for attendees of the AHIMA Data Institute held in Orlando, FL on December 7-8, 2017. And according to Data Institute speakers, this new approach of mixing self-monitoring and health-centered “entertainment” is already yielding results.

Even if you have never picked up a video game controller, kicked around a soccer ball, or played Pokémon Go, nearly everyone enjoys playing games in some form. In general, the human brain does well learning through play, even when they don’t know they are actually learning new skills from playing games. Most people are not just ready for playing games to improve their healthcare, they’re always looking for new and innovative ways to play games. As a result, healthcare organizations have begun to catch on that wellness does not need to be boring or difficult.

It was suggested by multiple speakers at the Data Institute that wider adoption of gamification in healthcare is leading to a real change in patient behavior by making it fun to stay healthy, and that hopefully monitoring of these results will show overall improvement for health outcomes. The speakers at the Data Institute also predicted that there will be widespread growth in gamification of healthcare over the next few years as more patients adopt an interest in finding entertaining and interactive ways to manage their health activities.

Desiree Matel-Anderson, chief wrangler at Field Innovation Team, shared an innovative game that was used to assist children in learning handwashing techniques. Use of this game resulted in a reduction in the spread of infectious diarrheal diseases.

In a Business Insider article, the authors described a project in use by one payer to improve the health of expectant mothers. According to that article:

“UnitedHealth is experimenting with several gamification models, including one that uses financial incentives to keep its members engaged over the long run. The game, called Baby Blocks, is offered to 50,000 pregnant members in seven states and is designed to encourage women on Medicaid to attend all their prenatal checkups. The women can unlock ‘blocks’ in the game by going to those appointments. After they attend key checkups, they can receive rewards, such as gift cards for maternity and baby clothing. In 2012, the company says, 2,296 members actively used the Baby Blocks pilot, logging 7,098 prenatal appointments and unlocking an average of 3.1 prenatal blocks per member.”

While these are only a couple of examples, clearly the future is bright for data analytics individuals who can find creative ways to combine health improvements with the use of gaming technology to assist in adoption of improved healthcare practice. Attendees at the Data Institute heard multiple examples of how games can be used to teach new health practices, reinforce learning, and use innovative electronic techniques to change lives.

Lesley Kadlec (lesley.kadlec@ahima.org) is a director of practice excellence at AHIMA.

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