Gamification: Why health wins

Abbott takes a look at how gamification can lead to improvements in healthcare

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The change set to disrupt the way we manage healthcare

In a world of smartphones and fitness trackers, our everyday activities have been transformed into games. Harnessing this trend can help people achieve their best health, says Andrew Lane, Executive Vice President of Abbott’s pharmaceutical business.

Since the rise of smartphones, there have been countless apps designed to make our everyday activities more entertaining. From exercise and dieting apps to meditation programs and educational games, brands and businesses are turning to gamification – using game elements in nongame contexts – to capture people’s attention and influence their behavior.

It’s easy to see why. Who wouldn’t want to make exercising more fun? And we all love collecting points and badges – even if they’re virtual. Incentives like these can effectively motivate us to change our behavior, which is why gamification is so popular. What’s more, games can be used to explain and educate when it comes to more complex topics, making learning more fun and engaging.

READ MORE: How digital is changing the healthcare industry 


Gamification unlocks opportunities for people to get healthy

Many modern lifestyle health risks can be directly attributed to individual health behaviors such as physical activity, diet, medication adherence and more. As a result, healthcare providers are increasingly focusing on behavior change as a way of reducing health risks and preventable diseases.

At Abbott, we’re using elements of gamification in our latest service – a:care. This new healthcare service is designed with games, quizzes and recognition programs to support patients, doctors and pharmacists throughout the entire healthcare journey, from awareness and prevention to motivation to get and stay healthy.

And this is important because with an aging population, many people are taking a more preventative approach to their healthcare and wellbeing. Now, more than ever, we’re actively managing our healthcare, and many of us are doing this via smartphone apps and fitness trackers that gamify our every move. It’s no wonder the global healthcare gamification market is estimated to grow from $2 billion in 2017 to more than $19 billion by 2022.


Gamification in digital health is a winner

There are a few reasons why the combination of gaming and health is such a hit. Now that nearly everyone has a smartphone with activity trackers and sensors, it’s easier than ever to gamify our everyday health behaviours. Just look at FitBit, which rewards users with badges and congratulatory messages after they’ve completed certain fitness tasks.

Gamification also appeals to those who grew up playing video games – a demographic that just keeps getting larger. With familiar game elements like levels, points and leaderboards that make it more approachable and engaging, digital health apps are becoming more like fun games. Take the Nike+ Run Club app, for example. Users win badges, progress to new levels and are able to share their accomplishments with others. This transforms a boring, solo activity into one that’s fun, immersive and easily sharable.

Most importantly, current digital health games and apps cover all major chronic health risks – from physical activity and weight management to mental wellbeing and rehabilitation. This makes it easy for people to seek out engaging ways to manage nearly any health or wellbeing concern.

READ MORE: 3 ways the healthcare industry is looking more like Google, Amazon and Apple


Gamification can help doctors too

We often think of gamification as just for consumers, but doctors use games too. For instance, our a:care program also includes a medical education game for doctors that, along with supplying them with a repository of medical content, also allows doctors to test their knowledge in a fun, interactive way and compete against each other on leader boards.

Especially in the healthcare industry, where we are keenly interested in helping people change behavior, gamification is a clear winner. For Abbott, this means combining innovative services along with our products, which when combined can be even more effective at helping people get and stay healthy. In the end, better health wins.