For decades, the healthcare industry was predominantly a closed system. But today, things are starting to change as new technology challenges the traditional healthcare ecosystem. Further, as social gaming on mobile devices grows in popularity with the general public, it now creates new opportunities in healthcare application development.
Imagine that you’re the hero of your own story where every step you take has an impact on your final goal. That’s what gamification brings to mobile health applications. Gamification makes it easier to overcome obstacles by turning the daily mundane tasks into games.
At the moment, only about 15% of medical professionals will recommend mHealth apps to patients. But this percentage should improve dramatically over the next couple of years as the connected health and wellness market is expected to reach $8 billion by 2018.
As mobile gaming is consumed by a mainstream audience, healthcare application developers don’t need to limit their target market. As the majority of people using gaming apps aren’t hardcore gamers, adoption of mHealth apps is also a lot easier.
Gamification in mHealth apps can essentially encourage patients by integrating gaming elements like points, badges, and levels. It works really well in this particular industry as it provides real-time feedback.
mHealth apps can also have a strong influence in getting patients to track their health. Several studies have found that people are more likely to use mobile health apps to receive medication reminders, track physical activity, and track symptoms.
What adding gamification features does is help bring about behavioral change. It also helps patients realize that they’re actually stronger than what they once thought, know that they’re surrounded by supporters, and most importantly, they’re heroes in their own story.
Further, the gaming aspect of mHealth apps gets you to focus and control your attention on your goals. So when it comes to recovery, health challenges become more attainable as it can create optimism. As we’re already wired to be attracted to fantasy, we get more invested in it and find more meaning in the experience through engagement.
Gamification features can be applied to almost all available health apps and wearables in the market today. These features can be used to do the following:
- Define objectives
- Define a clear set of rules
- Develop a reward system
- Keep track with scoreboards
- Provide instant feedback
- Measure results
What Should mHealth App Developers Consider?
Mobile health app developers are in the habit of trying to focus on self-management of chronic illnesses. Healthcare providers, on the other hand, want to provide games for their clients. Both scenarios have had some ethical and legal issues.
For example, privacy restrictions can make it quite difficult to design apps containing a feedback from competitive gaming design (even for those who want to benefit from them). It’s also important to ensure that this information doesn’t get shared with entities like employers who may want the data to negotiate healthcare packages.
So it’s important to carefully consider how all the gamification features will affect the user’s privacy and safety. For example, if the mHealth app works together with other apps like Fitbit, it’s important to consider if sharing information with a third-party app would affect patient privacy.
Like medicine is tailored and prescribed to patients with an understanding of the benefits and risks, the same approach has to be adopted for mHealth apps. So while gamification can enhance patient adoption and engagement, safety shouldn’t be neglected as more functionality is added.
In the healthcare application development space, there should also be a focus on building apps that are not only easy to use but also effective in helping patients. This will help it draw a high number of users that can engage in continuous use with the support of their peer group while healthcare providers can utilize the apps to track patients and receive feedback.
In the end, the gamification features in mHealth apps will help organizations build stronger connections and bonds with their patients. This can be achieved by getting patients involved in their care while harnessing the data that’s collected.
There’s a lot of room to grow in healthcare apps space, so expect many new entrants in the coming years.