yukai chou gamification

Top 10 Gamified Healthcare Games that will extend your Life (2024)

Image of Nintendo's Dr. Mario, Healthcare Games

Healthcare Games Improve Lives

Technology is changing the face of healthcare as we know it. The typical habit of only going to a doctor when you have an issue is slowly fading. The medical field is now moving towards preventative care, and for good reason: according to the Partnership for Prevention, over 100,000 lives could be saved in the U.S. every year if the gaps in just 5 preventative health services were closed. Preventative healthcare improves general well-being and can save lives by catching a disease or condition before it’s too late.

And Gamification is making services more accessible, fun, and impactful through preventative healthcare games.

It’s no surprise that positively changing daily behaviors can help prevent disease and disorders. Eating healthier foods, maintaining an exercise routine, and remembering to complete a prescription medication regimen can ensure you enjoy a long, healthy life. While we intend to remain on top of these things, the reality is that most of us are likely to fall short of staying consistent with these habits. However, with the help of gamified tools and platforms, healthy regular activities can be fun and easier to maintain.

Here are 10 amazing companies that are changing and (even saving) lives through preventative healthcare games.

Healthcare Game #1: Ayogo

Patients with chronic conditions must be proactive about maintaining and improving their health and overall wellness. There are limits to what doctors and caregivers can accomplish on their own.

This is why a company called Ayogo has designed an app called Empower to help these patients develop new behavioral habits specific to their condition. This project received the support of partnerships with:

  • Joslin Diabetes Center (Harvard Medical School)
  • Sanofti Aventis (USC’s body imaging center at the Keck School of Medicine)
  • Diabetes Hands Foundation

With daily prompts to help remind them, patients are required to check in every day to record their behaviors. They are assigned small activities, games, and surveys and rewarded for positive changes (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment).

Over time, these behaviors turn into new lifestyle habits that help patients make better progress and develop more autonomy in terms of their health.

Healthcare Game #2: Mango Health

Mango Health has designed an app that has been featured on CNN, Self, and LA Times. With this tool, patients can earn monetary rewards simply for taking their medication.

Remembering to take one’s prescription isn’t always easy when you’re dealing with school, work, errands, phone calls, appointments, and emails.

To address this, Mango Health’s app issues reminder alerts. Patients earn points every time they take their medication (Core Drive 2: Ownership & Possession). As they stay on schedule, they earn larger rewards such as $5-$10 gift cards to Target and GAP. Another form of reward even includes dollar donations to charity organizations like ASPCA. Imagine helping an animal in need just by taking your medication!

Healthcare Game #3: Reflexion Health

Reflexion Health aims to “reimagine the physical therapy experience.” Co-founder and CMO, Ravi Komatireddy explains the basis for his company, “As a physician, I saw a big problem with traditional PT (physical therapy), namely that it wasn’t being done by patients.”

Reflexion Health developed a virtual instruction platform to solve this issue. In the comfort of their own home, patients watch an animated instructor model a particular exercise on their TV or computer screen.

They are prompted to follow the instructor in doing the same exercises. Motion-guided technology is then able to compare the patient’s performance to the sample and point out any needed adjustments (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment).

Physicians can see if their patient is following through with the exercises by following their progress. Issues with the form can be then corrected as needed.

Healthcare Game #4: Respond Well

Respond Well’s technology is also aimed at helping physical therapy patients consistently perform their rehab exercise routines.

Like Reflexion Health, Respond Well’s platform uses motion sensor technology. Their particular application utilizes Microsoft’s Kinect and offers a wide array of different features to keep patients engaged and their doctors informed of their progress.

Patients can choose their virtual animated trainer, music, and 3D environment (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession). They earn points for proper form and can set up challenges as well as invite their friends and family to participate (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness).

The Kinect not only monitors their motion but also counts repetitions. Data is stored in a cloud system for analysis and reporting purposes.

Healthcare Game #5: Cohero Health  

The consequences of forgetting to take one’s medication can be particularly dire for young asthma patients. But thanks to Cohero Health, there is now an app called Asthma Hero to help young patients stay on schedule.

The app connects to a Bluetooth sensor that attaches to the inhaler with a strap. This unit communicates with the mobile app to keep track of when the medication was administered and whether or not it was taken properly.

Patients or their parents can specify:

  • the number of times the inhaler needs to be used
  • the number of puffs that need to be taken

Reminder notices are then issued based on these settings.

Asthma Hero lets the patient choose and name their hero character and rewards points for adherence to the treatment schedule (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession).

Information is also stored on a cloud server. The physician is therefore able to stay informed about relevant details associated with the patient’s compliance and usage of the medication.

Healthcare Game #6: Pact

Pact is an app funded by the founder of Guitar Hero. Users make pacts with themselves to consistently exercise and eat healthily. And they can get paid real dollars to do so.

The powerful driving force of this preventative healthcare game is that they can lose money when they fall off track. Therefore this is a great example of Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance in action. The idea of losing money is extremely compelling and scary. After all, this is how parking tickets work. The same dynamic operates in Pact.

Players specify how much money they agree to be deducted from their credit card or Paypal account for every day that is missed (e.g. $5). This money will then go into a collective pool that issues payouts to those who do reach their goals (talk about an interesting combo of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, and Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment.

Unfortunately, the game is set up to where losses are much bigger than gains. Players can choose to lose anywhere from $5-$10. However, meeting goals will only earn $0.30 to $5 a week. Yet this is still enough to perhaps indulge in an extra Starbucks visit.

Healthcare Game #7: HubBub

HubBub’s tagline is “Play Well Together.” It is designed to help companies improve the health of their employees and overall productivity. After all, better health equates to sharper thinking and more energy. Yet these optimal states tend to be undermined by the typical office lifestyle of primarily sitting throughout much of the day.

HubBub believes they have the answer to this issue. They offer an innovative alternative to conventional health programs in terms of flexibility, features, and most importantly, fun.

Users can even invite their friends and family in addition to playing with their co-workers (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness). This enables a lively social environment where players can encourage each other and even celebrate successes with virtual fist pumps.

Challenges can either be created or chosen. Examples include:

  • eating something orange
  • walking 8000 steps with a friend

Check-ins to record small achievements are noted. And over time, players can earn badges.

Healthcare Game #8: Cog Cubed

Cog Cubed is a company that develops healthcare games for researchers and clinicians. They develop applications that target a wide range of cognitive processes. Their particular emphasis is on executive functioning. This has to do with performing goal-directed behavior which is often impaired in patients with Alzheimer’s, Traumatic Brain Injury, Autism, Anxiety, and ADHD.

The current flagship product of Cog Cubed is Groundskeeper. Unlike games presented as apps, websites, or video consoles, Groundskeeper involves a set of handheld cubes with animated digital graphic interfaces. This unique technology was developed by MIT’s Media Lab.

Players solve problems as they physically manipulate the cubes (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback).

While Groundkeeper is designed to be fun and engaging, its main intent is to assess individuals for ADHD. Performance data is collected to measure distractibility and attention These are analyzed and compared with those who have ADHD and normal executive functioning skills.

Healthcare Game #9: Akili

Akili has designed an assessment game called Evo. Its objective is somewhat similar to Cog Cubed’s Groundskeeper. Evo is mainly targeted to detect Alzheimer’s disease.

Diagnosing this condition normally requires an expensive PET scan to find amyloid plaques in the brain. But, Evo may be a more cost-effective way to tell if someone has Alzheimer’s.

Like Cog Cubed, researchers created standardized sets of game performance data. With Evo, this includes normal populations versus individuals with Alzheimer’s.

The game design for Evo tests players on how well they cope with cognitive interference (distractions) which is important for functioning in real life, especially when it comes to self-care and safety.

During the game, the player tilts the iPad or iPhone device to steer an alien down a river. Distractions appear in the form of a fish or a bird. And players need to tap the screen every time this happens (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment). This performance data is then collected, assessed, and measured against the predetermined standards.

Healthcare Game #10: Synandus

Synandus offers “simulation learning technology” for patients and students. Currently, one of their applications is for patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), a progressive disorder where breathing becomes increasingly difficult.

The dynamic visuals give a peak into specific areas of the body. And users can see what types of physiological changes happen when they make certain choices (e.g. drug therapy, smoking, etc.) or expose themselves to various environmental factors (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity).

This innovative educational technology not only benefits actual patients but students of the life sciences (e.g. medical school) as well.

Healthcare Games On The Rise

In the spirit of helping to make the world a better place, healthcare games are growing to meet real needs. And with the help of gamification, it is now possible to experience fun and joy in developing a healthy lifestyle, while preventing diseases and disorders before it’s too late.

Please share any other preventative healthcare games that excite you below.

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24 thoughts on “Top 10 Gamified Healthcare Games that will extend your Life (2024)”

  1. The article on Yu-kai Chou’s website about gamification in healthcare highlights the innovative use of game mechanics to improve health outcomes and patient engagement. In this context, integrating telemedicine software developed by InVeritaSoft can further revolutionize patient care. Their solutions offer an interactive platform for patients and healthcare providers, enhancing the engagement and effectiveness of remote healthcare services. It’s a step forward in making healthcare more accessible and engaging through the use of cutting-edge technology.

  2. Drift Boss is a famous drifting game. In the game, you will have the opportunity to control your car on endless roads full of difficult turns and collisions. The game sounds simple but it takes a lot of practice to be able to drift well around corners. Join the game now to prove that you are the best racer and score the most points.

  3. I think Reflexion Health is genius! Let’s face it – people are lazy…and even more so when they know no-one is watching. I think this concept will really have a major effect because it makes the exercises more engaging and fun. The added benefit that the doctor can see one’s progress is even more impressive. If gamification is the future of health care I am sure that we are heading towards a more involved, fit and healthy society.

    Awesome blog!

  4. I would like to add one more company to this list, MedSqr LLC. CeyHello by MedSqr LLC. is an amazing app which brings human touch to medication management. With CeyHello, family members can personalize their medication reminders by connecting to their loved ones online via a secure care circle. They can also send image and audio clips as medication reminders. This unique peer-to-peer sharing bridges the gap between families living far away from each other and delivers a platform where they can securely share their favorite moments as personalized medication reminders.

  5. Hi Yu-Kai,
    I’m a fresh starter and learner in gamification & human-focused design space. Thank you for featuring all these HEALTHCARE game apps. I love spending time on your blog pages. It’s nice place to learn.
    Thank you & God bless!

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  11. Amazing post, Healthcare and gamification, that only proves how limitless human focused design is.
    Personally I think applications like GymPact are not completely well Design although is a good example.
    Social Influence work much better as reward and push than the totally extrinsic reward of money or the idea of losing your own. People would just stop using it and bet on themselves as nobody can really force them to bet their own money.
    But what if a Company would grant a total bonus of $500 more on your Salary? What if you had up to that amount to play and then do your best to keep it (without losing it) doing a minimum physical activity or even increase it with a greater than average activity?
    In this way people wouldn’t have to bet their money but would perceive it like a wait to retain or even increase a bonus on their salaries.

  12. The concept of pact somehow reminds me on speed cam lottery. Collect money from those who do not act according to the rules and distribute it among those who do.

    I just can’t see how this concept will work in the long term not to mention building up a healthy habit that wouldn’t permanently make me think about loss and avoidance. Take a look at your local gym and you’ll see that a similar concept is already setup with the yearly subscriptions. At the beginning of every year lots of people sign up a yearly contract in the hope that paying money for the gym would keep them motivated to visit it on a regular basis. A some point during the course of the year people start to drop out because paying the fee is less draining then permanently reminding oneself to go to the gym in order to not waste the invested money.

    1. Well, to be honest, gyms actually design their program for people to sign up and pay monthly, while NOT going all the time. They don’t make a dollar more if you do, but it crowds out the space and whoever is there has a worse experience. It’s important to think about the incentive for the business too 😉

  13. I think Reflexion Health is genius! Let’s face it – people are lazy…and even more so when they know no-one is watching. I think this concept will really have a major effect because it makes the exercises more engaging and fun. The added benefit that the doctor can see one’s progress is even more impressive. If gamification is the future of health care I am sure that we are heading towards a more involved, fit and healthy society. 

    Awesome blog!

  14. I like the concept of Gym Pact. Unfortunately the major driver there is materialistic, which can turn people off when they lose money (and they may stop even exercising all together). Also, it may lead to people trying to cheat in order to avoid the consequences of the (self-imposed) control….

You must engage in the conversation!!