Applying principles of gamification in healthcare has become increasingly popular in recent years. I wrote previously on the blog for instance about how Blue Cross are experimenting with gamification in a bid to reduce costs.
A new project is looking at more direct benefits of gamification however. Researchers at Birmingham City University are teaming up with the cities Children’s Hospital to bring gamification to treatment of young people.
The process is being designed to help teenagers at a time when many begin managing their own treatment and medical care. It’s aiming to help the transition from having a caregiver deliver the treatment to the teenager themselves giving it.
The use of games is hoping to focus the minds of the young people involved so that they remember to deliver their care amidst the many distractions presented by teenage life.
For instance, rewards may be given for acquiring new knowledge or skills related to their condition, or for helping peers in their local community. It could even see the patient rating system currently applied by the hospital as a form of badge system to determine how well the patient understands their condition.
The partnership are also exploring the possibility of developing games specifically for health, with the universities computer science department a potential source of ideas and innovations. Such social good related games are growing in popularity, with the likes of Creep Frontier tackling the issue of cystic fibrosis. With games such as this showing improvements in understanding it could be fertile ground.
A paper produced by the researchers highlight some of the hurdles to overcome.
“Engagement itself may be dependent upon age and stage of development — that is younger people may be more likely to enjoy and participate in the challenges whereas interest may wane as the person matures. There is also the element of novelty, the challenges faced in order to maintain that game’s uniqueness and how different genders perceive and react to the came-based system. Therefore there is the possibility it may only be effective within a certain time frame.”
But even with those doubts the overall the scope for video game mechanics to be employed for social good and in the field of ongoing medical care is huge.
“As long as there are improvements in the overall acquisition of skills and in the confidence of the young person to care for themselves it would be successful,” they continue “and as a result has the potential to engage a wider audience”.