Earlier this year, the folks at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology were playing games. OK, they were patient education games and they were very heavily techno-oriented, but they were still games.
More specifically, the folks of the New Media Medicine research group, a part of MIT Media Lab, held their Health and Wellness Innovation 2012 event, a “two week hackathon that brings together students, health professionals, and innovators from industry to build technology that empowers patients to take control of their health.” Spark Capital ponied up ten grand in prize monies for the best and brightest.
Why did all these bright young minds spend two weeks hacking and creating and collaborating and problem-solving all focused upon patient education games? Their web site really says it best:
“Healthcare is in crisis; every year we spend more and get less. At the core of this crisis is a lack of patient engagement. Patients are motivated to be involved, but they are consistently undervalued and marginalized. Current efforts in consumer health are fragmented and fail to leverage a common infrastructure to promote each other’s success through positive feedback. They spend most of their time solving the same problems over and over again. As a result, their ability to empower patients is limited.”
They see patient empowerment as vital to changing the crisis in healthcare. Gamification is a way to take complex (and often boring) health information and care management and turn it into fun. When things are intriguing, we’re all more inclined to engage. When we engage, we can change things for the better.
Granted, the resulting patient education games look rather basic if you compare them to most current, technically savvy and artistically more advanced games in the shoot-kill-war or sports genres, but Pong was pretty basic when it first came out…and look what it hath wrought!
Patient empowerment is the wave of the future. We can change healthcare when we can change how engaging healthcare is. Patient education games may be Pong-ish now, but their capacity to simplify the complex and make the boring fun will grow by orders of magnitude in the coming years…maybe less.
Posted – May 3, 2012