Gamification is a winning approach for mHealth tech

A person facing a medical issue and an upsetting diagnosis are hungry for information and typically have to embark on a new lifestyle that incorporates healthier choices. But it can be daunting, scary and all too often, a lonely path. So why not try to make it more fun, more engaging and easier with mHealth apps with a gaming approach?

As FierceMobileHealthcare reported last month, mobile gaming apps are already being viewed as the next prescription for reducing stress and anxiety. It's seen as a therapy tool for psychiatric care for many reasons: it can be tapped anywhere and anytime by patients, there is no stigma attached to 'playing a game' and it's a cost-effective option, compared to drugs or intense therapy sessions.

The gaming aspect may delve deeper past helping those with psychiatric issues and serving as a motivator and all-around lifestyle coach to help patients dealing with medical issues and health-related challenges.

In a column, Joseph Kim, M.D., lays out all reasons why gamification should become a strategy for mHealth apps going forward. First off, most people have played a game or two on a smartphone at this point and are comfortable with the technology. Secondly, the 'gaming' aspect can be made fun and challenging. Kim mentions an app where players set aside a specific amount of money (a bet, so to speak) on fitness and exercise goals, designating an amount they're willing to 'lose' if they don't follow their regimen. Those users who fail to fulfill goals then pay players who make good on set goals. As he explains, people are typically competitive in nature and apps such as these provide that competition aspect.

Games are also quick and easy when it comes to providing motivation in real time when needed. If a user isn't meeting goals or needs to step it up, the app serves as a private training providing motivation and support in a personal setting. Who doesn't like getting a pat on the back or a word of encouragement to get back on track, whether it's work-related or health-related?

As Kim also notes, game apps are an interactive way to inform and keep patients updated on new medical treatments and advancements in a fast and quick way. If the app can push that information to users in a fun way it's likely the patient will not only read but also come to enjoy such alerts.

I'm expecting we'll see an onslaught of 'gaming' focused mHealth apps this year and in many years to come as there are so many options, so many user bases to focus on and so much innovation happening.. It is certainly an exciting time in healthcare. - Judy (@JudyMottl and@FierceHealthIT)