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The Gamification of Healthcare – Wellness at Work with MSLGROUP

By Davida Dinerman, Account Director at MSLGROUP

Summer’s here, and it’s a great time to get outdoors and be active. I, for one, am a big believer in the benefits of physical activity. It’s fantastic for one’s mental and physical well-being. There is a big movement now to use social gaming to help people modify behavioral patterns, start a health plan and stick with it. But wellness is more than diet and exercise. It is also about socialization and finding the right way to motivate yourself to set goals and accomplish them, while sharing successes and even failures with those who are also working to improve themselves.

Gamification is about blending the competition games bring to incentivize people to manage their health and wellness more successfully, become more compliant and treat healthcare as less of a chore and more of a rewarding activity. As PwC argued in a report from 2012 titled “solving business problems with game-based design,” when done right, the approach could bear valuable fruit.

Wellness and health optimization companies, such as Welltok, Jiff, Keas, Audax Health, Red Brick Health and OneHealth, are prime examples of organizations whose basic mission is to help consumers create a good wellness plan and get rewarded for healthy behaviors. And now with iPhone apps so readily available, people are using them even if they are not connected with a company program. It’s just fun to use devices and share results. That can keep people engaged.

Wellness Graphic

Last year, one of our employees started a company-wide Wellness@Work challenge. Many signed up, and for six weeks competed for points in three categories:

Easy – 2 Points

  • Drink 6 cups of water during my day
  • Park in another building’s parking lot

Medium – 3 Points

  • Stand up from my desk every hour to stretch
  • Walk up the stairs to the 6th floor and back

More difficult – 4 Points

  • Walk a loop around the outside of the office building for at least 15 minutes
  • Use the treadmill desk for at least 15 minutes

The overall goal was to earn at least 20 wellness points every week by successfully completing applicable wellness activities (on this list or otherwise). The contest manager also suggested people download StandApp for their iPhone to set times to do certain activities.

Doug Russell, SVP with MSLGROUP, participated in the Wellness@Work Challenge as he knew it would be fun and good for his health. His primary goals were to: lose some weight, have more energy and gain strength for other activities he does with his family, such as bike ride and hike. In fact, he wouldn’t go home until he fulfilled his daily quota of reps for the day. As a result of participating in the corporate contest, Doug lost a few pounds and earned an Amazon gift card. After the contest was over, Russell built more exercise into his schedule. He said, “I also eat healthier, substituting bread and red meat for ‘superfoods,’ such as salmon and spinach.”

fit bit

Image source: Flickr

MSLGROUP San Francisco Managing Director Merrill Freund has a self-professed obsession with health and fitness. He runs and lifts weights and is internally wired for competition. Six months ago, he started using FitBit. He had been tracking his workouts for decades, so adding steps and calories seemed like the next stage of his “disease.” The goals are: 10,000 steps a day, 100,000 steps a week and 3,000 calories a day. As Freund said, “Given you can network with friends and see their scores, the goal was also to destroy them in step count.” He finds that by using FitBit, he can quantify a sense of accomplishment for even the most basic of activities – walking. According to Freund, this has, “reinforced my views on what motivates and made it clear that I am going to spend way too much money until the day I die on these type of devices.”

I also spoke with a tennis friend of mine, Ann K., who began using FitBit in May to track her health, particularly nutrition and sleep habits. She finds FitBit keeps her motivated to be active at least one hour and 10,000 steps per day by walking, playing tennis and gardening. She likes the checks and balances FitBit offers since she can log her food intake and share it easily with her nutritionist. It was also a clear way to determine how many hours she was sleeping. “I check my iPad at least twice a day anyway, so FitBit made it easy for me to stick with my program,” said Ann.

Ann coined it well when she said that the secret to staying with a wellness plan is to do things you like to do. “A program—be it exercise or food—must cater to you.”

Are you working on a health program using gamification? We would like to know your thoughts.

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A member of MSLGROUP since 1996, Davida has been entrenched in the agency’s healthcare IT and tech practice groups. She earned her MBA from Babson College and her BA degree from Dartmouth College. Follow her on Twitter: @DavidaDinerman




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