Could “Health Gaming” Play An Important Role In mHealth Innovation?

There’s many aspects to the mHealth concept that’s driving immense growth, but mobile gaming isn’t traditionally thought of as being one.

According to an interesting article in the Journal of the American Medical Association,  games that relate to tough medical issues such as diabetes and even cancer may have far more value than previously thought.  The article chronicles a study of health-related mobile games that found this type of gaming could improve diet and exercise compliance, a patient’s understanding of their own condition, and even adherence to medication regimens among other things.

With the proliferation of mobile applications in general, there’s been several health-related games that lean more towards the entertainment value rather than an educational spin, which the study says in a fine line to walk.  What makes a health game a good choice, according to the study, is one that has “a narrative that motivates the user toward defined goals, provides clear feedback, awards points, delineates levels of competition, encourages teamwork and trading, and in some cases, uses an avatar to represent the player.”  The more developed these attributes, the more useful the game will be for health objectives, the researchers found.

So what are some examples of these types of games?  The research cites titles such as ZamZee, a mobile reward system for physical activity; the Cornell University-developed Mindless Eating Challenge to encourage portion control among teens; and Lit to Quit, an iPhone-based smoking cessation app.

This is an interesting concept and one that will definitely see huge potential as development ramps up and apps start to take new technology being developed on smartphones into account.  Things like GPS and even new-age mobile monitoring  devices can easily be incorporated to make the games more engaging and useful from a medical point of view.

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