According to a Newzoo report, the global games market is expected to reach $91.5 billion in 2015 and $113.3 billion by 2018. Currently, 155 million Americans play video games and four out of five U.S. households own a video gaming device.
Within the gaming market, the health e-games segment—comprising of games that focus on exercise, brain fitness, chronic condition management, healthy eating and professional training—is estimated at more than $6 billion. The demand in healthcare gaming is driven by the flourishing casual gaming market and desire for improved wellness, among other factors.
There are a number of examples where video gaming has been applied successfully:
- In partnership with Carnegie Mellon’s University Human-Computer Interaction Institute and Entertainment Technology Center, where American International Group (AIG) is developing a game that aims to prevent addiction to painkillers among injured people by leveraging their social networks.
- LinkedWellness is commercializing a role-playing game – SPARX – to treat depression in young people.
- Play2PREVENT Lab at Yale University School of Medicine has created a role-playing videogame called “PlayForward: Elm City Stories” to provide at-risk adolescents a way to gain and practice risk reduction and HIV prevention skills.
In order for video games to be successful in making an impact in healthcare and ultimately be reimbursed by insurers, they have to demonstrate efficacy. Increasingly, video games are being scientifically validated using objective outcome measures:
- Duke University is recruiting patients as part of a randomized clinical trial that will determine whether participation in a virtual environment integrating diabetes self-management and support (Diabetes Self-Management & Support LIVE) is associated with positive impact in behavior and metabolic outcomes.
- Akili Interactive has partnered with a few pharmaceutical companies and organizations such as the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) and Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism (DELSIA) on clinical trials to investigate the validity of Project: EVO in a variety of disease states, such as autism, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
- A California non-profit, HopeLab, has created a game called “Re-Mission 2” to help adolescents and young adults with cancer improve their understanding of the disease and treatment adherence. “Re-Mission” went through randomized clinical trials and is published in peer-reviewed journals – Pediatrics and PLoS One.
Video games offer many benefits; Games can help provide a creative, interactive and entertaining way to engage patients and increase their commitment to health and wellness, as well as improve health-related behaviors and outcomes. Games that include social elements can leverage the power of collective networks and peer-support to provide positive reinforcement. Patient education games can also increase treatment adherence.
We should look for ways to leverage these benefits in our communications plans as part of branded or unbranded campaigns aiming to drive positive behavior change. As communicators, we should keep in mind that games should be used as a supplement to meaningful doctor-patient interaction and as as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.