Game On: Hospitals and Healthcare Marketers Are Now Playing Along

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

EMR electronic medical recordsHospitals and medical and dental providers are discovering ways to connect their sometimes-sterile persona to the wildly popular, and decidedly friendly, world of online games.

“Games,” JAMA declares, “are now a dominant form of media, even larger than the motion picture industry, and are enjoyed across gender, age, and cultural boundaries.” Games are online, in console systems, mobile phones and even toys and medical devices.

A large segment of the American public seems to love Internet and computer games. Surprisingly, the average game buyer is 40 years old, and the 18-49 age group is an attractive target audience for healthcare marketers. In a game format, (otherwise clinical) health fitness and medical compliance subjects are more involving, immersive and interesting.

Here are four illustrations that could serve as models and idea starters for others.

Informative But Fun Example: Children’s Hospital LA’s “Where’s Pau Now” game is the first in a four-part online interactive series featuring sports heroes. (Lakers forward Pau Gasol, hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, US National Team forward Landon Donovan, and Dodgers first baseman James Loney.)

OK…not everyone has Hollywood in their backyard, but the clever “search” games—which happen to include sports celebs—are actually giving sneak peeks into the new hospital building. Players learn about its cutting-edge technology, amenities and services and seeing how the new hospital specifically caters to children, adolescents and their families. Play along with the first segment here.

Therapy Example: Virtual Game-Playing for Stroke Patients is an occupational rehab concept using virtual reality (VR) systems such as Wii or PlayStation Move. A study at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto concluded that stroke patients who play video games are up to five times more likely to improve their arm motor functions than those who just use standard therapies. The findings, published in this month’s Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, indicate that games help heal the brain by facilitating challenging, repetitive and task-specific movements.

Commercial Product Example: Colgate’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures site for kids, parents and educators features games, stories, activities and cartoon videos about oral health. The free, kid-oriented educational games are for the purpose of “creating healthy smiles through family fun.” A local dentist could provide a link from their office website to Colgate’s not-overly-commercial site.

Health Insurance Example: Humana Games 4 Health uses a “fun + health” formula using video games as an entertaining catalyst to a healthier lifestyle. The “HG4H” website features a half-dozen solutions—exergames, pervasive games, casual games—for people to become more physically and mentally active. Or, as they say, “We want our games to get you off your seat and on your feet.”

Is your hospital, health system or provider practice using games? In addition to the healthcare marketing and patient involvement opportunity, JAMA thinks that interactive games can promote behavior change.

In an academically worded commentary this month, they said, “Sufficiently engaging games might enhance the effectiveness of health messaging, allowing individuals to practice useful thought patterns and behaviors and encouraging them to explore and learn from failure in safe virtual environments.” They probably mean it might be fun and healthy.

Let us know what you’re up to and how it’s working for you. And if you’d like some help in directing your social media marketing, Internet advertising or online branding, connect with us here. We’re ready to play.

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