How is Gaming Changing the Landscape in Health Care? Part 4 | Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Time to break the health care silos

In Part 1, Fabio Gratton, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Ignite Health, answered the question, “How is Gaming Changing the Landscape in Health Care?”

In Part 2, Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Founder and Director Center for Connected Health answered the question: “How is Gaming Changing the Landscape in Health Care?”

In Part 3, Bill Crounse, MD, Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation answered the question:  “How is Gaming Changing the Landscape in Health Care?”

Part 4, I offer my thoughts here on how gaming is changing the landscape in health care.

Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Q:  How is gaming helping to change the landscape in health care?

A: Gaming is helping to change the landscape in health care because gaming allows individuals to become active and engaged in their health, however gaming needs to captivate the attention of all the health care silos in order to be a true game-changer in health care.

Gaming is popular

There is no doubt gaming is popular, and according to The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) consumers spent $25.1 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2010.

A few facts about gaming:

  • 72% of American households play computer or video games.
  • 82% of gamers are 18 years of age or older.
  • The average age of a game player is 37 years old.
  • 29% of Americans over the age of 50 play video games.
  • 42% of all game players are women.
  • 55% of gamers play games on their phones or handheld device.

Social Health

A distinctive layer of gaming is social health which promotes patient and consumer engagement.  Social health is an important area for all health care silos to understand and embrace.

Social networking goes beyond blogs.  Social networking is a platform to communicate, collaborate and connect with consumers, and digital play can help foster behavior change and sustain a healthier lifestyle.

“Digital games, including virtual realities, computer simulations and online play, are valuable tools for fostering patient participation in health-related activities. This is why gaming is the latest tool in the arsenal to improve health outcomes: gaming makes health care fun.”  [Source:  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation]

Whether you engage online, with the Wii, Kinect or with the click of an app, gaming technology is transforming health care.

Mobile health continues to soar

According to the research firm Frost & Sullivan, Fiercemobile Health Care reports, “The mobile health app market will grow to $392 million over the next five years, a 70 percent increase.”  Additionally, it’s also reported that “Mobile healthcare and medical apps are predicted to reach 142 million downloads by 2016.”

What’s in it for you?

If you become engaged, proactive and empowered in your health care, you are more likely to adhere to action plans and sustain healthy behaviors.

Sometimes it’s not easy going in it alone.  Having support from family and friends can help you be accountable for your outcomes.

Gaming can help you achieve your health goals in a fun and challenging fashion.  Gaming often includes challenges and rewards.

How do we motivate individuals?

We start by calling in the tribes; our family, our friends, our supporters, our motivators, our coaches, the navigators, and our peers to help us.

“Friends and family can provide social support and encouragement for healthy behavior. They can also gently remind the person when they get off track,” said Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a clinical and health psychologist with a private practice in Mill Valley, CA.

Family and friends can be a positive influence for us to achieve better health because they can be our role model.  “We learn by watching others.  The behavior of people around us also influences our own standards and definitions for healthy lifestyles,” said Greenberg.  “Research shows there are more obese people in the social networks of obese people and normal weight people have more normal weight friends and family.  “Therefore, by getting healthy, you naturally influence those around you to get healthy too. Your behavior change may make family and friends reevaluate their own lifestyles. If you can do it, they may feel more confident that they can do it too.”

Behaviors are contagious and can spread in social networks

“Science also supports the idea that healthy and unhealthy behaviors are contagious and spread through social networks,” said Greenberg.  There is a landmark 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by Christakis and Fowler.

It’s good news that social networks can impact healthy behaviors which can result in positive outcomes, but that’s not enough.

Time to break the silos in health care

In order for gaming to spread in social networks, it’s time to break the silos in health care to allow innovation and action to emerge.

In a recent post published on Healthin30, Joseph Kvedar, MD,  Founder and Director of the Center for Connected Health notes that when it comes to gaming for health, there is a drift of two silos in health care; doctor-driven and consumer driven.

His point is well taken, but I believe there are other specific silos in health care that haven’t so much drifted apart, but haven’t fully met in the middle.  The separation of silos impedes collaboration.

Payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, academic  health centers, research institutions, health IT,  doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, health and wellness retailers, employers, health and medical bloggers, entrepreneurs, policy–makers, patient bloggers, patients, caregivers, educators, consumers, government, manufacturers of medical device companies, social media experts, public relations and marketing firms, health information providers –  online, print, radio and television, are other silos in health care.

Need to adopt a collaborative culture

“No business, institution, or government agency is immune from silo syndrome in which barriers develop among the organization’s many parts. But adopting collaborative culture, processes, and tools can keep silo syndrome in check and create greater value.”  [Source:  Business Week]

In the hospital, quality patient care is delivered by an interdisciplinary team approach.

Outside the hospital, the same principles need to apply.

“Gamifying” health care is not a silver bullet. The act of improving healthcare can and should be approached from many different angles,” writes Fabio Gratton.  He further notes that “while direct to consumer health care advertising, mass media, and the Internet have dramatically increased the sheer volume of information and people’s access to it – these advances have done relatively little to actually create knowledge and transform behavior.”

By breaking the silos, engagement across the specialties will foster innovation and action.  Thought leaders and influencers from the various silos coming together to communicate, collaborate and connect in a transparent style, can help transform health care from stagnant to spectacular.

John Kotter, contributor at Forbes writes, that one way to eliminate the silos, is to create a “guiding coalition.”  The Digital Health Coalition is doing just that, perhaps this is a good place to start for collaboration and connection.

So while gaming is fun and cool as Bill Crounse, MD states, we need cooperation and connection from all the silos to help transform health care and create the landscape we want for a healthier life.

“An idea that might resonate inside of a silo might just wither away.” – Seth Godin

Your turn

We would love to hear from you.  Do you think gaming is changing the landscape in health care?  What are your thoughts on health care silos? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

As always, thank you for your valuable time and for sharing your insights.

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Next up:  Games for Health

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