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In the rapidly-evolving digital age, patients want the same kind of experience from their healthcare providers that they receive elsewhere—quick, convenient, connected, and responsive. By investing in the right technologies, healthcare providers can meet burgeoning demand and help improve the overall patient experience, patient interactions with healthcare providers, and the outcome of those interactions.

Gamification, which is extensively used across other business use cases like loyalty management, has started gaining momentum in the healthcare sector over the last few years. Gamification involves applying gaming elements like activity design to solutions and offering incentives within existing processes to create engaging experiences, with the goal of increasing process adoption.

The core aim of gamification in healthcare is to create more patient-centered services and make treatment and engagement of every patient more personalized. Gamification is proven to enhance patient’s motivation and engagement, as it brings in elements such as action-based challenges and instant rewards, helping patients conveniently track their progress.

Digital solutions are plenty and are available in a wide variety for healthcare providers and patients alike to browse through and choose from. However, an important niche strategy and unique selling point of digitalized healthcare products and services is the gamification strategies embedded into them. These strategies rely on the robust integration and interoperability of gamification systems into various aspects of the healthcare industry, and effectively harnessing the power of data and analytics.

Digital health monitoring and wellness apps are the front-runners in applying gamification strategies. These are used to achieve app adoption and engagement, and generate more data which can be used to personalize health plans. Wearable devices like Fitbit and the Apple and Android watches, and apps like Strava have successfully applied gamification strategies within the wellness and fitness industries.

The outbreak of Covid-19 greatly affected the rate at with technology is being adopted by healthcare providers. There has been a substantial shift in working methods as people turn to the remote working environment and expect services to be provided remotely as well. The healthcare industry is no exception to this expectation. Hence, healthcare providers are turning to digital solution to provide virtual care.

Drivers of digital transformations in healthcare

The pandemic and dramatic shift in people’s lifestyles and expectations have been a driving factor in the adoption of digitalized solutions in the healthcare industry. Additionally, consumers find themselves at an advantage as they benefit from a high degree of digital connectivity with affordable internet service, varied mobile device technologies and an extensive app developer ecosystem.

Approximately two-thirds of the world’s population carry mobile phones and this number is anticipated to grow every year[1]. Meanwhile, the number of social media users has increased by 13.7% in the past 12 months and almost 55% of world population is using some form of social media to interact with each other[2].

Accompanying the rapid growth in mobile phone usage is the huge expansion in applications targeting health and health-related behaviors. There are over 100,000 health applications available across major mobile platforms[3]. The majority of these apps focus on wellness, fitness monitoring, and weight management.

Gamification strategies in healthcare

While building habits may be a laborious process because of the psychological barriers involved, it can be made easier by providing the right incentives, leveraging a philosophy of instant action and gratification. This is the crux of the gamification of healthcare, defined generally as the “use of game design elements in the context of positive health motivation”.[4] Below are examples of entities which have successfully adopted gamification in their company strategies.

Ayogo applies behavioral psychology and social gaming to improve health outcomes for patients. The app is designed to set up personal health plans and monitor and track behavioral habits by sending reminders and recording user behavior, as well as encouraging adherence to health plans.[5]

Mango Health incorporates gamification strategies such as setting up daily routines and recommending personalized healthy habits. Some other features include sending prescription reminders and the user earning points every time he/she adheres to their medication schedule.[6]

Reflexion Health offers physical therapy via a virtual instruction platform. Patients are guided and monitored through motion guided technology. Healthcare providers can connect to this platform which allows patients to access licensed physical therapists via virtual reality[7].

Propeller Health provides smart inhalers for asthma treatments, which connect to an app. The app tracks medicine use while offering personalized insights into the treatment. Patients can program medication schedule and an app sensor tracks how well the patient adheres to their treatment plan. Additionally, the app provides reminders on when a dose is required. The Propeller’s ‘Hub’ is an additional device that plugs into a power outlet and syncs patient data through Propeller over to the patient’s healthcare provider. Propeller uses aggregated data and machine learning to help provide personalized insights into local environmental triggers to the patient. The caregiver can use the data provided to get a better idea of how effective the treatment is.[8]

Pact is currently not available in the marketplace. However, the app incorporated gamification strategies which are worth mentioning. Users were required to set goals to eat healthy and exercise consistently. Failure to adhering to these goals would result in a penalty where users would be penalized by having money deducting from their account. The app’s use of such penalties ensured strict adherence to goals[9].

Cardiogram, a healthcare startup, uses the deep neural network algorithm DeepHeart to process heart rate sensors and accurately detect multiple major health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation. Fitbit, the activity tracking wearable device company uses data integration with Cardiogram and underlying tech to provide Fitbit users access to specialized detection technology.[10]

Chronic disease management startup Livongo has a cloud based diabetes management platform which links with a glucose meter to personalize coaching to help control blood sugar.

Opportunities: gamification across the patient journey

Each step in the patient’s journey has a technology element that can be used to improve the user experience.

Gamified health platforms are likely to increasingly leverage partnerships with health providers, health data products, mobile apps, wearable devices, and insurance providers for data integration.

Healthcare providers can collect patients’ data by partnering with data aggregators like Google Fit and Apple Health Kit. These aggregators collect data from multiple other health tracking apps on patients’ mobile phones as well as wearable devices like smartwatches.

Patients can be guided, monitored, and kept engaged by applying gamification strategies to plan their activities, gamified actions to complete the targets and the option to share their progress with others.

Symptoms and wellness tracking: The majority of internet users search health issues or related information online and self-assess the symptoms using information and tools available online instead of reaching out to doctors. This is the digital door where the patient’s journey starts. Health providers have an opportunity to position themselves as experts and provide digital health platforms where consumers can engage, monitor their health parameters, and track wellness.

Appointment scheduling: One of the critical steps in patient engagement is providing a seamless experience to schedule appointments with practitioners. Digital health platforms or apps can help patients to automatically schedule appointments with specialized practitioners based on patients’ locations and symptoms. Gamification strategies engaging with patients before they reach healthcare centers can lower patients’ anxiety about health outcomes.

Treatment and ongoing care: Patients’ profiles can be enriched with behavior and activity monitoring data integrated with health systems. Physicians can gain greater insight into the symptoms to properly diagnose critical diseases. Data integration across clinical health systems and health apps on patients’ mobile devices can help to remotely monitor patient activity and vital health parameters.

Health insurance: Patients experience very limited interaction with insurance companies. This interaction typically revolves around payment of medical bills, reimbursement, and/or claims. However, health insurance companies can extend and enhance their offerings using gamification strategies. Some instances of deploying such strategies include providing quotations using virtual coins and represent discounts. Patients may be rewarded with lower prices.[11]

Our perspective

Healthcare providers using data integrations and gamification strategies to create and enhance the patient journey will be the leaders in the digitalization of healthcare. Major factors to achieve fully digitalized healthcare ecosystem include: data integration across healthcare platforms to analyze parameters, application of gamification strategies across healthcare processes for proactive engagement with patients, and utilization of data analytics to monitor, predict and design true personalization across the illness or wellness lifecycle.

Data security, privacy and compliance remain major concerns. Healthcare providers undertaking systems integrations and gamified applications must do so without violating patient privacy regulations.

KPMG can help you develop data integration and analytics strategies to build these capabilities and digitally transform your healthcare ecosystem.