Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can Healthcare Games Change the Game of Healthcare?

Original post: Pharmaceutical Executive

Ellen Hoenig Carlson of Advance MarketWoRx is live from Day 2 of the Games for Health Conference.

With the completion of the Games For Health Conference Friday, it was very exciting to see several innovative efforts in place. Despite being the early days in Health eGaming, momentum is quickly building behind games and virtual worlds as potential “game changers” to improve education, engagement, and behavior to positively influence health.

As we head into the “virtual” future of marketing, here are seven key implications for pharma to think about:

1.Adherence: An educational and behavioral change focused game can be part of a ‘meaningful’ compliance and persistence-marketing program. Too often the current adherence RM programs are simply a few reminders that are either Web or direct mail interventions. A well-designed adherence health game could provide significantly more engagement to not only remind patients, but also teach them how to use and incorporate treatment into their daily regimen. And could furthermore, help them understand why on-going behavior changes and adherence are needed to maximize success.

2.Awareness/Diagnosis, Conversion: A well designed, fun game can be instrumental in helping people get diagnosed and/or feel better about new treatment options. Games can provide another channel and platform to further surround the consumer and provide learning and engagement opportunities that may appeal beyond traditional or Web media communications. Games have potential to turn one-way communications upside down in favor of two-way engagement.

3.Prevention: Virtual simulations of natural environments can dial-up coping mechanisms to help prevent relapse, improve self-esteem, and sustain learning. Memorial Sloan Kettering presented a pilot of a virtual reality simulation taking place in a home setting where an ex-smoker might be tempted in certain situations to smoke i.e. watching TV. While this virtual reality game was developed to prevent smoking relapse, one could also imagine designing a virtual simulation where ADHD kids or adults could practice social skills and coping mechanisms to be more successful in real life situations. Or even for diabetics or cholesterol suffers to ‘say no’ to sugar in social situations, etc. These types of games offer consumers the opportunity to test themselves prior to a real situation so that they can be ready for it.

4.Engagement, community building, and learning: Advergames that are relevant, easy, fun to play, and integrate the game and brand storyline in a seamless way can dramatically increase engagement, spawn communities, and become viral – always a struggle for the pharmaceutical industry. Well-executed advergames can also provide a rich source of qualified and highly motivated responders to a brand’s database for additional dialog and learning. Could Advergames complement and/or offer, in some cases, a more effective result than many of the relationship programs currently in place?

5.Consumer empowerment, with personalized 3D virtual realities and simulations, which can reflect the potential impact of possible behaviors and decisions on ‘their’ unique condition and quality of life. What would happen if we could enable a diabetic to watch what happens to their body in real time if they consume too much sugar? Or how strength building exercise and the proper diet does for bone preservation?

6.Medical training to enhance skills and execution. Some of the virtual simulations are pretty amazing. They can offer innovative ways to supplement training programs already in place with KOLs and sales reps, especially for new technologies and procedures that may require focused training to optimize usage and results.

7.Payer and managed care collaboration to improve healthcare prevention, diagnosis, delivery, and outcomes. Could this be a way to improve outcomes and bring meaningful value-add to your branded therapy, and a mechanism for the consumer to gain reimbursement for the adherence game with their branded medication? You be the judge. Start gaming!

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