Gamification as a Staple in Health

I’ve read Vinod Khosla’s guest post (“The ‘Unhyped’ New Areas in Internet & Mobile”) on Techcrunch yesterday several times now. We should feel pretty fortunate to be able to obtain this type of information for free. 

Of the 12 opportunity areas that he details, Health 2.0 excites me the most (for now). I’d love to take a stab at working on something in this pool in the next few years. I think devices and apps that let you measure for the sake of improving are really neat and could be extremely important in advancing us to the next step in preventing health problems. Apps and services that really excite me include Jawbones UP, Glooko, Withings connected devices, CareZone.com, and HealthRally

My dog has been having a lot of health issues lately and I’ve already trashed a bunch of the paper receipts and didn’t keep a log of each problem, vet visit and medication administered and I’ve only had her for 6 months. I started using Evernote to keep track but it’s just not made for something like this. Then I thought about how important this would be for people as well. The next day, Techcrunch wrote an article about Carezone.com. I think that’s why this space is soo exciting. It’s relatively easy to find problems and think of solutions. As usual, implementation isn’t as easy but I can’t help but think that I’ll dedicate some of my time to working in this space in the next few years.

I think Vinods article had an important and probably overlooked common theme. He mentioned gaming and gamification almost 10 times. For several months now, I’ve been realizing how important and powerful incorporating game mechanics into pretty much everything (along with a strong emphasis on design) is and will be in creating rich and engaging experiences that are fun and instill trust which will be extremely relevant in “Health 2.0” and “mhealth.” Just the other day I thought of a game that incorporates a lot of the game mechanics in popular Zynga Mobile games (Words With Friends & Scramble) such as Catch Up, Turn Play and Randomisers that I believe would get many people to do a few more exercises each day. I think the average person would play/exercise on average for 2 minutes a session, 3 times a day which could result in an average of 100 push ups (or other exercises) per day more than that person previously would have done. That’s only 6 minutes a day but that equates to over 36 hours a year and over 36,000 push ups. I truly believe that a game and fun factor could be the difference in somebody cranking out thousands of push ups, sit ups and other exercises each year versus not.

Straight from Vinod himself:

  • “Both gamification (separate from gaming) and social may become basic tools that enable many of the areas I mentioned.”
  • “One could reasonably put gamification of everything from health to education to training to shopping as a new emotional tool for applications.”
  • “This is starting to change; it makes me optimistic that what has not worked so far can now work, especially given the role gamification can play in increasing student interest and social can play in increasing peer and teacher support and assistance.”
  • “Alpha geeks have been hacking together solutions to track various types of personal data for years, but with the advent of open source hardware, cheap sensors and smart mobile applications, we believe that there will be a new class of applications unlocking the value of this data. And, in doing so, they will reshape the understanding of our own health and the health care industry as we know it and probably provide a lot of fun, games and motivation along the way.”
  • “One of the evolutions we will see is that these utilities (and other real/virtual crossover areas like gamification) will require less, not more, input from us as they evolve – as the virtual bleeds into the physical, the enhanced experience will become more seamless and a natural part of activity”
  • “There will be both large permanent innovations and categories established as well as passing fads (especially in gaming). I don’t list games as a “new pond” here, though it will continue to grow and surprise us in categories—whatever the next Angry Birds/Farmville phenomenon will be—while gamification will become pervasive in everything from education to health to shopping.”

Sadly, I haven’t been to a doctor in months or maybe even years now that I think about it. I can’t help but think that I’d go at least 1 more time a year if it were more fun, rewarding, and less of a pain in the ass. I’m sure the wave of advancements that will come with “Health 2.0”, “mHealth” and gamification will do just that. Or better yet, create solutions that prevent me from physically having to actually go to a doctors office for 2-3 hours at a time to get a 20 minute check-up and get some tests ran that only take 10 minutes especially when those tests will just be sent somewhere else.

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