Gamification in Healthcare: Just Play or Real Value?

The following is a guest blog post by Thomas McFarland, Kerry Harbeck, and Andrea Kamper from Atos.

As early as the 1900s, educators started using rewards to motivate learners. Today, we know that incorporating rewards into learning has limited value; however, gamification spans a much broader strategy than simple reward systems. Coined in 2002, the term gamification takes a variety of complex factors into consideration when studying what makes a person decide to do something; it refers to a multifaceted approach that utilizes psychology, design, strategy, and technology.  The efficacy of gamification relies on experts, often instructional designers, to explore innovative pedagogical solutions.

Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world, demonstrated the power of games in solving real world problems.  She demonstrates how games can teach players how to make complex decisions and strategize for addressing issues from poverty to climate change. For instance, the game World Without Oil is a simulation designed to use brainstorming in order to avert the challenges of a worldwide oil shortage. Evoke, a game commissioned by the World Bank Institute, teaches players to find strategies for addressing issues from poverty to climate change. McGonigal makes a strong case for significant advantages held by organizations who can think beyond traditional training. She places a high value on simulation learning that involves strategy and role-based behaviors.

What value does gamification provide in healthcare?  Previous research indicates that gamification strategies enhance learning in a few key areas such as content recall and retention. Simulation of complex, critical processes may be one of the most valuable applications in healthcare. For example, the Education Technology group at the Stanford School of Medicine developed an application to teach physicians how to identify and treat sepsis. The web-based program, Septris, quickly gained popularity and led to a group of surgeons requesting a new application, SICKO, to teach doctors about surgical decisions.  Reception of Septris was immediately positive, and it enjoyed widespread usage. Within one year of launch, the game received more than 32,000 visits, with 16,700 plays and 2,500 completions of the game. Also, while 55% of hits were direct/organic, the other 45% of hits came from referrals. The authors demonstrated both the clinical and financial benefits of gamification for these more complex processes.

A vast set of opportunities exists in healthcare around learning that focuses on clinical & financial outcomes. Revenue cycle is a particularly challenging area for healthcare organizations because of its complex workflow, multiple stakeholders, turnover in job roles and importance of both accuracy and timeliness. Revenue cycle education is an excellent fit for gamification. We at Breakaway Adoption Solutions have created a strategy and role-specific approach called Revenue Cycle $im. It presents the learner with the multi-faceted revenue cycle environment as a computerized board game with animated characters, interactive problem solving, and real-world scenarios. This method allows the learner to quickly absorb the complex and role-specific interactions that have a significant impact on rev cycle success.

Check out some of the screenshots from Revenue Cycle $im below (click on the images to see the larger version) or request a full demo:

If you plan to use gamification in your healthcare organization, you should begin by asking if gamification is appropriate for the desired learning objectives. In general, gamification is more effective when the learning method meets the following criteria:

  • The learning includes a complex set of processes
  • The learning involves problem solving
  • The learning content creates a realistic simulation or link to real or analogous processes
  • The subjects require reinforcement over time
  • The learning content or processes have multiple “right” answers or various paths to successful completion
  • The activities or processes have multiple stakeholders that require collaboration and cooperation
  • The learning should use a creative and fun approach

Gamification has tremendous potential to create an interactive, memorable, rich experience for a healthcare learner.

About the Authors
Thomas McFarland is the Research and Development Manager for Breakaway Adoption Solutions, Atos
Kerry Harbeck is the Director of Learning Innovation for Breakaway Adoption Solutions, Atos
Andrea Kamper is the Innovations Operations Manager for Breakaway Adoption Solutions, Atos

About Atos Digital Health Solutions
Atos Digital Health Solutions helps healthcare organizations clarify business objectives while pursuing safer, more effective healthcare that manages costs and engagement across the care continuum. Our leadership team, consultants, and certified project and program managers bring years of practical and operational hospital experience to each engagement. Together, we’ll work closely with you to deliver meaningful outcomes that support your organization’s goals. Our team works shoulder-to-shoulder with your staff, sharing what we know openly. The knowledge transfer throughout the process improves skills and expertise among your team as well as ours. We support a full spectrum of products and services across the healthcare enterprise including Population Health, Value-Based Care, Security and Enterprise Business Strategy Advisory Services, Revenue Cycle Expertise, Adoption and Simulation Programs, ERP and Workforce Management, Go-Live Solutions, EHR Application Expertise, as well as Legacy and Technical Expertise. Atos is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.