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Published on:
March 17, 2022

Gamification in Healthcare: Benefits, Challenges, and Solutions

Remember when Fitbit was introduced? 

Everyone was high-stepping around the neighborhood in fun competitions driven by the game of reaching 10,000 steps and out-stepping friends. 

What simpler times, huh? 

Fitbit gave way to creating many other fitness trackers, each with new bells and whistles to motivate folks into engaging in physical activity. Today, one-in-five Americans are donning a fitness tracker of some kind. 

Fitness tracking was one of the pioneers of gamification in healthcare. 

Harkening back to the old Fitbit can sound silly when applied to the professional side of healthcare. Professionals who are battered by the pandemic and the extreme fatigue caused by the industry's challenges.

But, what if we told you that you could bring the fun elements of Fitbit to medical training settings? 

Sound silly? 

It isn’t. 

Incorporating gamification elements in healthcare can alleviate some of the fatigue and increase engagement for healthcare professionals across the globe. Keep reading to find out how.

What is Gamification in Healthcare? 

Gamification in Healthcare

On paper, the definition of gamification is incorporating game elements into non-game contexts, and it sounds more complicated than it is. 

It means adding features like leaderboards, checklists, levels, and rewards via point-based systems to teach, motivate, engage, and train all simultaneously.

This can also mean applying interactive features to video presentations to keep everyone engaged with the material.

Since video games are so popular, you’re likely already familiar with gamification in healthcare-type settings. Though wearables like Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Garmin are probably the most well-known, there are others too. 

Apps like MyFitnessPal have been popular for over a decade. 

An earlier example is the video game Packy and Marlon, featuring two diabetic elephants tasked with remembering to take their insulin and balance their blood sugars through a fictional storyline. The game was introduced in the mid-90s and marketed toward children with diabetes.

These techniques work because it combines video game psychology and learning. To do this, gamification attaches psychological aspects to a learning objective. 

Ultimately tying intrinsic motivation to shape behaviors.  

Behavior = reward = increased likelihood this behavior will increase/continue. 

For training purposes, gamification is then incorporated into the learning material. This gamified training is often hosted on an LMS (learning management system). LMS platforms plan, host, and implement courses via an internet connection. 

The material can be tailored to fit almost any kind of curriculum. With the ability to access the platform via the internet, it’s accessible from almost anywhere and can be efficiently completed by individuals or as a group.

How Does Health Gamification Work?

How-Gamification-Works

Health gamification combines health, wellness, and gamified elements to create a game focused on learning. 

It can be applied to concepts like exercise, mental health, or even reminders to take medications to manage chronic illnesses. 

In healthcare training settings, healthcare workers receive rewards for completing levels in the game. 

The objectives are specified to each desired learning outcome and are customizable by an administrator. Plus, existing training materials and classes can be imported too. 

The key to gamification working lies in attaching intrinsic motivation to an objective. By doing this, any learner can become motivated by the game's elements over time, which can elicit a behavioral change. 

Popular features include the use of 

  1. Avatars
  2. Stories
  3. Augmented reality 

Health gamification training can provide the platform for increased productivity and engagement when it’s never been more vital to encourage our healthcare workers than now.

It’s important to note that gamification can improve attention span, memory, problem-solving, and visuospatial skills. 

Plus, healthcare gamification is expected to be a 13.5 billion dollar industry by 2025 (which is sort of like saying everyone’s doing it).

What Are the Benefits of Gamification in Healthcare

Benefits Gamification in Healthcare

On the surface, it may seem as if adding game-type elements for fun to a healthcare setting is a bit reckless. 

It isn’t, though. Hear us out here. 

Gamification can be applied to healthcare at nearly every level, from physician to nurse to patient and even to caretakers outside medical facilities. Here’s how. 

For training purposes, it provides:

  • Ease of education 
  • Feedback 
  • Real-world application with simulation
  • Increased productivity and engagement

Ease of Education

Gamification of health training through an LMS makes learning objectives accessible to every staff member from almost anywhere.

Instead of printed copies of new protocols, as healthcare professionals saw in the pandemic, implementing new policies or procedures can be incorporated into the LMS through course authoring tools.

Staff training can then be implemented across the board, rather than disrupting busy working hours.

Plus, health training gamification can be implemented to recertify and stay up to date on the latest research and/or techniques.

Feedback

Some elements of health gamification include regular checkpoints via quizzes, exams, or progress bars. 

By providing this, communication can be thorough and clear from all parts of the team. It allows healthcare workers who are learning to gauge what they’ve retained so far and provides administrators with a blueprint of what is and isn’t working.

Real-World Application

Perhaps this is the most potent aspect of gamification in healthcare. People learn by doing (retaining up to 90% more).

To do this, a course would rely on virtual or augmented reality. 

The key function of what makes this so successful is connecting medical professionals to the learning material through an emotional connection. 

For healthcare settings, health gamification can be extremely powerful since it allows a new nurse, for example, to apply the onboarding hospital’s policies to a real-life situation without the danger of compromising patient safety.

Increased Productivity and Engagement 

Features of gamification in healthcare reinforce learning and tap into those psychological aspects of intrinsic motivation. 

Providing clear goals throughout the course with gamified elements, healthcare workers stay engaged with the material because there is an identified goal.

When engagement is piqued, so too is productivity. 

As we mentioned, health gamification applies in other healthcare settings on both the patient and administration ends. It can:

  • Decrease mundane tasks for medical professionals (like paperwork that can be taken care of in-app)
  • Store records
  • Provide metrics for patient tracking 
  • Manage patient data more efficiently
  • Engage and encourage patients to stay involved in their healthcare treatment at home
  • Educate patients and caregivers through the elements of the game

Common Challenges of Gamification in Healthcare 

Challenges of Gamification in Health

There are four, core challenges of health gamification:

  1. Learning curve 
  2. Poor design 
  3. Ethics
  4. Privacy 

Implementing a new type of software that changes the status quo of policy, procedure, and training can present a learning curve for many users. Choosing the wrong LMS that doesn’t allow for importing previously existing material to host gamified training can waste time and make the learning curve shallower. 

Poor design can be a contributing factor to ineffective gamification in healthcare.

Gamified content poorly planned or designed can do the opposite of motivating patients or medical professionals. Healthcare workers won’t stay engaged or active if the design and implementation are boring, glitchy, or slow. 

Applying gamification to healthcare information can present an ethical challenge. Some healthcare professionals may feel extra motivated to win the game rather than focus on improving learning, while others may feel defeated and become disengaged altogether.

The last of the four core challenges is perhaps the most important. Medical information as it pertains to patients and security is extremely sensitive. 

For sensitive training content, some LMS platforms (like ours) allow for the importation of PowerPoint, allowing administrators to restrict access to the information within a presentation. 

Depending on the application of gamified techniques, HIPAA information violations need to be considered and protected before implementation. This is manageable with medical, solid IT systems in place.

Common Gamification Features for Healthcare

Features of Gamification in Health

Right, but how are gamified elements incorporated? 

They’re incorporated into training through:

 

  • Progress reports 
  • Checklists
  • Tracking capabilities
  • Leaderboards
  • Simulations

Progress Reports 

Progress reports incorporated into training provide healthcare workers with a trackable gauge of their learning process. This can serve to motivate and keep them engaged. 

On the administration side, health gamification progress reports provide a picture of the whole team’s learning path. Training material can be tweaked when, where, and how it’s needed to be the most effective.

Checklists

The incorporation of checklists also keeps medical professionals learning on track and organized, but this feature is extra helpful on the administration side. 

Checklists allow administrators to assign static or dynamic due dates to specific tasks (like a quiz) that can be accessed by an e-health learner in or outside the learning environment.

Tracking 

Many healthcare software apps rely heavily on the ability to track metrics. Progress towards a given goal can be tracked through metrics like sleeping hours, calorie burn, distance, etc. 

In training settings, tracking metrics like progress through features like progress reports or checklists can help identify healthcare workers' strengths and weaknesses individually. 

The data provided by tracking for administration purposes can ensure that each medical professional is assigned where they have demonstrated the most strength. 

Administrators can also generate reports using customizable metrics from these tracking capabilities. This provides an invaluable blueprint of what each individual should work on, meaning that training can be customized to fit an organization's need(s).

Leaderboards

Let’s go back to the intrinsic motivation of gamification. 

Healthcare workers are motivated through their training by assigning points to the completion of tasks and then showcasing the individual with the most points on the leaderboard. 

On the administration side, award points can be set to categories of learning objectives based on desired training outcomes, meaning that training can be modified to fit the organization's vision.

Plus, leaderboards in gamification of health provide data that allows medical professionals to be recognized and rewarded, providing more motivation and allowing administrators to show appreciation. 

Simulations 

Again, with the real-world application we mentioned above. 

Simulated scenarios regarding medical conditions can be played (aka trained) through virtual or augmented reality. Medical professionals can learn with a real-life patient in a real-life example without compromising patient or staff safety. 

Another benefit of simulations in medical training is that it can allow an instructor or administrator to be present while a nurse completes real-world simulation training. 

This is an invaluable feature because it provides hands-on learning that medical professionals can retain better than they may from the written training material.

Features 

Key Benefits 

Progress reports 

  1. Provide analytics of a team’s performance
  2. Keep medical professionals engaged in training

Checklists

  1. Allows administrators to stay in control of learning outcomes
  2. Keeps medical professionals organized with training

Tracking Capabilities 

  1. Keeps e-health learners motivated 
  2. Provides data on performance for administrators 

Leaderboards

  1. Integrates intrinsic motivation for medical professionals
  2. Allows for recognition 

Simulations

  1. Real-world application
  2. No safety compromise 

Top 5 LMS For Healthcare With Gamification Integration

Ok, we’ve kept you in the waiting room long enough. Here’s where you can get all the gamification features for healthcare STAT!

Too much? Yeah, sorry.

Source

1. Tovuti

Tovuti LMS offers an all-in-one, cloud-based platform, available on mobile with in-app messaging. 

With Tovuti, you’ll get customizable course authoring, a content library, 24/7 access to courses, and the ability to import previously existing training material right onto the platform. 

With this platform, courses can be created, stored, managed, delivered, and tracked for effectiveness. 

For gamification features, Tovuti offers badges, point systems, certificates, leaderboards, levels, and checklists that can be applied to specified content. All features are completely customizable through the administration portal. 

2. Docebo

Describes themselves based on six core values: simplicity, accountability, togetherness, curiosity, innovation, and impact. This LMS has a course builder with customizable assignment scheduling. 

Docebo LMS features offer quizzes, assessments, badges, leaderboards, and point systems for gamification features. They include the option to build badges from scratch if an administrator chooses.  

While Docebo has high ratings on both G2 and PC Mag, some users report hiccups in applications with the administration of tests. 

3. Absorb LMS

This LMS allows administrators to assign courses, tasks, and assessments to competencies for individual and organizational performance. 

It includes basic gamification features like progress bars and certificates for achieving milestones in course learning. 

Absorb is a comprehensive LMS with rich features but may not have the tools necessary for in-depth customization of course building. It does offer many add-on packages, though.

4. Sap Litmos

This platform tracks and delivers on-demand training courses. 

It also offers 24/7 course availability, course building, and instructor-led training. SAP Litmos seems to work best for small to mid-size teams. 

SAP Litmos offers achievements, badges, leaderboards, and a point system for gamification. 

They offer a free trial, but pricing must be requested. Overall, this platform is easy to use, but some users report issues with IT requests.

5. eFront

Is an easy-to-use, easy-to-implement LMS that offers customizable course authoring tools and the ability to import existing material. 

For gamification features, eFront offers certifications, built-in leaderboards, and badges. 

eFront offers the ability to create skill-gap testing. To use this unique feature, questions can be taken from courses, and then employees can be tagged with a skill test. If this test is failed, training can be automatically assigned. 

While eFront does offer an easy-to-use platform, the interface isn’t as richly developed as other LMS platforms. Plus, the platform’s reporting capabilities are lacking in customization features. 

LMS

Key Features

Tovuti

  • Scalable to fit the needs of any medical staff size
  • Customizable gamification features 
  • Ranked #1 on G2

Docebo

  • Customizable course authoring
  • Ability to design badges 
  • Assignment and due date customization

Absorb LMS

  • Best for midsize to large organizations
  • Add-on package features 

SAP Litmos

  • Free trial 
  • Best for smaller teams and applications

eFront

  • Skill-gap testing 
  • Customizable gamification features 
  • User-friendly interface

Use Cases of Gamification In Healthcare

Using Gamification in Healthcare

Gamification of health settings can be seen in popular software apps that you’ve heard of before. 

They cover fitness and nutrition tracking, emotional and mental health, physical therapy, and self-management of chronic conditions or medicine trackers. 

Popular ones besides Fitbit include nutrition and diet planning apps like Healthify Me. 

Other apps like SuperBetter, an internet-based self-help tool have shown a reduction in depressive symptoms. 

Other use cases in software apps include companies like Mango Health. Mango Health designed a gamified app to remind patients to take their medications on time. 

After continued use of this gamification of health application, patients could establish routines that kept them on schedule with life-saving medicines and provide analytics to their healthcare providers. 

On the professional side, gamification of health use cases can be seen in world-renowned hospitals like Brigham Women’s Hospital and Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.

In 2014, clinical physicians were enrolled in a 52-week game study that quizzed their knowledge. The basis of the game was solving clinical cases focused on hypertension management. 

At the end of the study, clinicians who participated in the game showed a decrease in the amount of time it took to administer hypertension management to patients compared to clinicians who didn’t play the game. 

FAQ 

What does gamification mean?

Gamification is adding gaming techniques to non-gaming contexts. 

When any learner is rewarded through the mechanics of a game, it can increase engagement and knowledge retention while keeping them motivated through the process.

Over time, this intrinsic motivation from gamified features changes behaviors.  

With gamification in healthcare, these features can be used to improve health and wellness for everyone. 

For professionals, gamification features are integrated into administered training materials through an LMS. Keep administrators in control of learning material and outcomes while keeping healthcare workers engaged in training. 

What e-Learning tools does gamification provide?

The e-Learning tools gamification provides are lessons, course creation, course tracking, quizzes, assessments, challenges, levels, and interactive videos.

This can include timed quizzes or assessments with opportunities to earn a badge or points. Health gamification can include real-world scenario simulations that follow a storyline. 

Of course, this is dependent on the type of LMS. 

What is an example of Gamification?

Gamification has been applied to many aspects of our lives, both in and outside healthcare. Other examples outside of gamification in healthcare include:

 

  1. Duolingo
  2. Yousican
  3. Codecamy 

Summary

Health gamification is a win-win

A level up

An achievement unlocked

The missing diagnosis

Enough puns, eh? 

Gamification is the combination of video game psychology and learning. It can be an easy way to level up any content or training material. 

It rewards learners with achievements, levels, etc., to increase information retention and reinforce desired behaviors. 

Why do you need it in healthcare training?

  • Ease of education 
  • Feedback 
  • Real-world application with simulation
  • Increased productivity and engagement

The benefits are for everyone from medical professionals to patients to caretakers. 

No one needs to be reminded of how exhausting the pandemic has been more than our healthcare industry. 

The world has watched as the virus has battered our doctors, nurses, administrators, and everyone in between. 

Gamification of health can provide a lighthearted type of fun while delivering top-notch training to healthcare teams when COVID fatigue has taken over. 

Give your healthcare team a spring in their step with gamification features everyone started to love way back when Fitbit burst onto the scene. Check out a demo to get started today.

Author:
Tyson Chaplin

Tyson Chaplin earned his Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University in 2014. He also earned a graduate certificate in Technology Integration and holds teaching certificates in online teaching, special education, and history.

Tyson is an Idaho native who is passionate about technology and how it can help all people learn and better themselves. He has worked in both public and private sectors. Tyson enjoys cooking and traveling with his wife, Malia, and restores vintage video game systems in his free time.

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