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Achieving Enhanced Patient Wellness Outcomes through Gamification

An individual performing physical activities by following the challenges presented in the virtual gamified environment.

The term "gamification" is an emerging paradigm that aims to employ game mechanics and game thinking to alter behavior and improve desirable outcomes by promoting better patient compliance. The objective of innovative project was to investigate the fundamental aspects of gaming (both traditional hardcore gaming and casual mobile gaming) that make them engaging, rewarding and stimulating and to apply those to immersive, and fun, healthcare wellness management solutions that can be adopted by patients.

The current physician-patient relationship is most often top-down in nature; a physician provides a patient with a specific set of instructions with which they are supposed to comply. The patient is then to go home to manage their care until the next provider/hospital visit. In the context of healthcare, gamification aims to transform the patient-physician relationship into a more collaborative experience, where patients become more motivated to succeed in their care and wellness management goals because of appealing features designed to keep them engaged.

This work addresses the question of whether patients exposed to "wellness gamification" have better health outcomes, compared to patients that are not. The scientific contributions of this work have the potential to transform the manner in which patients are motivated to adhere to medication regimens, physical guidelines, and other wellness initiatives by incorporating the features of games that make them engaging, motivating and social in nature.

It is relatively well established that individuals who are prone to use similar self-improvement platforms are already committed to the success of their wellness management. This complicates work in this area. The main limitations of existing self and wellness care techniques are that too many patients do not engage with such systems for a prolonged period of time.

This research has resulted in the creation of: 1) a theoretical framework that outlines the factors needed for a successful gamification wellness solution; 2) a gaming system platform that explores the practicality of the proposed theoretical framework in influencing patient behavior, towards better wellness outcomes, and; 3) new knowledge about the extent to which patients attain better wellness outcomes when exposed to a gamification-based wellness management system.

In addition to patients, the concept of gamification has the potential to transform healthcare officials by creating incentive structures that encourage them to be more efficient, productive and engaged in the overall process of patient-centered care.

Economic Impact:

Unlike the current healthcare paradigm, a more gamified healthcare system has the potential to enable patients to transform from passive consumers of health-related content, to proactive agents who are motivated to play a conscious role in their overall wellness. This breakthrough gamification work has the potential to transform medication adherence and compliance from a task into an activity in which patients are more motivated to partake.

For more information, contact Conrad Tucker at The Pennsylvania State University,, Bio, 814.865.7580.

PDF icon CHOT-2016.pdf