The Gamification of Health (Gamification Post #2)
Yesterday, I wrote a post discussing gamification – the idea of using games in new and even “serious” ways. Healthcare is on everyone’s mind right now (see Nicole’s post below), especially here at Saint Louis University with our Center for Health Law Studies. The prediction markets — another type of game — are split on the outcome. (Latest per Josh Blackman’s Fantasy SCOTUS: ACA Constitutional 42%, ACA Unconstitutional 57%). And so, while we’re waiting, I thought I’d provide a little distraction by writing about the intersection of health care and gamification.
I recently finished a book by Ivan Beale entitled “Video Games for Health.” Most of Beal’s book concentrates on an innovative game called “Re-Mission,” where the player’s avatar fights cancer cells in the body, and along the way receives advice about the importance of taking medication, getting enough rest, and lowering anxiety. Preliminary results seem to support the idea that the game leads to positive health outcomes for kids and teens battling cancer in real life. In the health insurance and employment context, wellness plans are using gamification to motivate plan members to adopt healthier lifestyles. For example, Mindbloom’s Life Tree allows users to earn seeds (points) for healthy behavior like walking, going to the gym, or getting a check-up. A cute website and social networking integration provides users with additional motivation, as friends can see a member’s progress toward a healthier lifestyle.
As far as the legal issues, a recent article by Kristin Madison et al. noted that the Affordable Care Act would allow for employers to provide additional financial incentives to employees who participate in wellness programs. The article, however, also raised some legal and ethical concerns: will gamification and financial incentives discriminate against those who are ill, even when is not their fault? Are some of these wellness factors class-based? How do we feel about tying employment and work so closely together? Do employees want employers to have their health-related information? Might employees feel coerced into these programs? Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision we have much to think about.