Gamification in Healthcare
Written by Dr Niamh O’Reilly


Wearable devices, apps and games for self-monitoring of various aspects of health and fitness have increased in popularity in recent years. This has been attributed to improvements in computing technology allowing individuals to collect and reflect on personal information about their health behaviours and wellbeing. 1, 2 Here, we discuss gamification in healthcare for patient engagement and education activities.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the use of gaming techniques for non-game applications to provide a fun and engaging interface for users while also solving problems. Many aspects of health can be improved by behavioural changes (e.g. healthy lifestyle choices) which some people can struggle to achieve. Gamification of health communication and health behaviour change programs can be useful for healthcare companies to motivate and promote engagement among consumers.

Increasing patient engagement

Many chronic illnesses currently causing substantial healthcare cost burden are treated with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Non-adherence to therapy or healthy lifestyle advice is common among patients with a chronic illness and an issue that healthcare companies are seeking new ways to address. 3 There are often serious complications associated with poorly managed disease, for example, kidney damage, diabetic retinopathy and lower limb amputations resulting from poorly controlled glucose levels in diabetes. 4

Healthcare companies recognising this trend have developed digital resources including games and apps in many forms to encourage adherence to therapies and improve overall health. One such company has developed gamified disease management apps and web-based education tools for adults and children with diabetes. These tools keep users motivated in monitoring their blood glucose levels and engaged in tracking other aspects of their health to help manage their diabetes. 5

Another motivational tool designed for children with diabetes connects their blood glucose monitor to a NintendoÒDS gaming platform and rewards consistent blood glucose monitoring with points. 2 A similar tactic is used by ‘Hemocraftä’ (a modified version of a popular video game) to engage children with haemophilia and educate them about managing their condition. 6 These games can help children to understand that what may seem like burdensome tasks can positively impact their health and therefore assist with reinforcing beneficial behaviours.

In a further example, an online game allows players to fight cancer using ‘weapons’ and ‘super-powers’ such as chemotherapy, antibiotics and elements of the immune system. 7 This game educates children about cancer and how therapies are working inside their bodies. Data has shown that children who play this game take their medication more consistently which had positive biological and psychological outcomes. 7

Educational tool

Gamification has also been incorporated into educational resources for sales representatives and continuing medical education (CME) for healthcare professionals (HCPs). An example of this involves an interactive game to teach sales reps about selling and objection-handling techniques. This technology also facilitates trainers and trainees to provide real-time feedback throughout the training process which has been seen to increase engagement compared with traditional techniques. 8

Educational games can be used to deliver short, succinct CME lessons to often time poor HCPs and may include competitive elements such as rankings or leader boards to motivate and engage users. 9 One such game allows users to diagnose and treat virtual patients while learning about sepsis and how it may be treated using the company’s product. 9 Another quiz-based gaming app delivers education about pharmacy products to users and requires them to answer questions to achieve high scores and rewards. The Australian app developers have reported high levels of engagement due to the entertaining elements of the game. 10

There are many positive attributes associated with use of games to improve engagement in healthcare. However, gamification of healthcare activities may need to overcome challenges associated with data security, patient privacy and regulatory standards. 6 To be successful, long-term gaming technologies could be incorporated into a holistic disease management approach to improve overall health throughout the course of a patient’s disease.


CRC’s experienced team develop and implement strategic Medical Affairs solutions which can incorporate the use of gamification in various forms, for example, as part of a holistic patient support program (PSP).



  1. Johnson et al. Gamification for health and wellbeing: A systematic review of the literature. Internet Interventions Journal
  2. Mesko B. The top 15 examples of gamification in healthcare. Available at: https://bit.ly/2tD32Sv
  3. Usherwood T. 2017. Encouraging adherence to long?term medication. Available at: https://bit.ly/2G7Nx6m
  4. Diabetes Australia. Preventing complications. Available at: https://bit.ly/1Kjyy6W
  5. Lomas N. 2015. Digital health start-up mySugr gets $4.8M to make diabetes “suck less”. Available at: https://tcrn.ch/2GlVqW7
  6. Ma Y. 2017. Pfizer goes gaming for patients. Available at: https://bit.ly/2wES0hs
  7. Mishra S. 2018. Gamification as a patient engagement tool – How is it faring? Available at: https://bit.ly/2G6Jx61
  8. Baer S. 2017. Game based learning helps big pharma get ahead. Available at: https://bit.ly/2IC6rYi
  9. M. 2016. 4 Necessary elements for creating a great game platform. Available at: https://bit.ly/2rM7ZF1
  10. Lush N. 2017. HCP engagement: screen games next? Available at: https://bit.ly/2wJsqrN