Nurses use gaming, apps to reach patients

University of Pennsylvania nursing students, as part of a year-long online challenge, have created a series of games to improve patient health. Penn just selected four winners in the challenge, including two intriguing mobile/app games that took first and second place.

"Game-playing is built on many of the same concepts as nursing practice--making connections and sound judgments, fostering engagement, team-building, problem-solving, and planning," says Penn Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis.

The two mobile-enabled games are:

MyDiaText (First Place): The smartphone-based game targets teens who've just been diagnosed with diabetes, to encourage them to check blood sugars, eat healthy, etc., according to its creators. Teens create a profile, and set behavior modification goals within the app, and then receive up to five motivational, or encouraging, reminder texts each week. For users who are sticking with their plan, their messages are congratulatory. For those falling a little behind, the messaging is more encouraging, to motivate the teens to re-start better habits.

The Diabetes Center for Children in Philadelphia plans to start a trial of the app this month. No details yet on how large, or long, the trial will be.

Trigger Busters (Second Place): This app tackles asthma in children, and is more of a video-style game that children can play on Android smartphones.

Children move a character through a city, trying to avoid or clean up dust or other allergens that are chasing them in the game. They receive points for the amount of time they remain clear of trigger items, and can gain energy rewards if they take their inhaler or nebulizer when needed. When the child loses all their energy, they're directed for a hospital visit.

Right now the game offers a keyboard-control version, and another for plug-in game controllers. Developers are working on a touch version for touchscreens as well.

To learn more:
- read the University of Pennsylvania announcement
- check out a description and demo of MyDiaText
- get a look at the TriggerBusters game