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1.5.22
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All Fun And Games: Gamification And Its Application To Health Care

Julia Sakalus

There is a lot of room within health care to optimize processes and improve the patient experience. What’s a thoroughly tested, universally used, and applicable method that could accomplish this? Gamification.

What is gamification?

Gamification is the process of applying game techniques and elements in a non-game context.So, no, we’re not suggesting making doctor visits into a video game, but rather borrowing principles of gamification and psychology and applying them to improve a patient’s experience and engagement with the health care technology they’re using.

Ok, but how does it work?

Gamification triggers emotions that are linked to a positive user experience. Within apps and websites, this usually looks like encouraging users to gain more points, rewards, or discover more information. Users like having (or at least the illusion of having) control. They like to feel a sense of achievement when they correctly complete a task on a platform. Our human instincts and curiosity drive us to explore and want to escape into a virtual world, which is one of the many reasons why video games are so effective. Gamification can also help establish a match between the system and the real world, one of the 10 foundational heuristics of user experience design. When a design speaks a user’s language, using words, phrases, and concepts that are familiar to the user, it’s easier for the user to learn and remember how the interface works and builds an experience that feels intuitive.

What does this look like in a health care setting?

One area that could significantly benefit from gamification is telehealth. Telehealth use is 38 times higher than the pre-pandemic baseline but this dramatic shift hasn’t given the user experience a chance to catch up. Currently, patients are being asked to join a “waiting room” that consists of a blank white screen, or end up staring back at a reflection of themselves until the provider, without warning, joins the call to start the visit.  Patients have no way of knowing if the provider could be running behind or how long they have to wait. They don’t know if they can leave the website or app and are left to navigate an unfamiliar space. Imagine the difference even some basic imagery could provide. By providing patients with waiting rooms that not only mimic the real world more closely but also provide them with something to interact with while they wait, it can offer a greater feeling of control and provide a more positive experience. An interactive virtual waiting experience affords a lot more clues to the user about the fact that they are in a waiting room (match between system and real-world), how much longer they need to wait (sense of control), and gives them the option of exploring and engaging in activities (we love to explore and escape). A gamified virtual waiting room experience could include things like giving the patient the ability to test their camera, writing a note to the doctor, interacting with a virtual front desk, etc.

What more can gamification do?

Gamification techniques could further be applied to all different kinds of training for health care professionals, from learning how to use a new platform, to annual training, to learning how to perform a procedure. Gamification can even foster a sense of community and teamwork within a practice by incentivizing care teams to reach certain metrics together. The latter would have to be properly examined and implemented to avoid the platform becoming a “digital whip” for our essential workers.

In a nutshell

Health care gamification has the potential to significantly improve patient experience and retention with telehealth, as well as improve training, information retention, and engagement for health care professionals. Game on!

To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registry, billing services, telehealth, secure messaging, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.

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