Jeanne Barnett on how pharma can use games to engage patients and improve adherence
I am obsessed with predicting and imagining where technology might lead us, and I believe it is leading pharma to a greater partnership with patients.
Smart pharmas are always working to improve their relationship with patients, to ensure that patients see themselves not only as product consumers but also as product partners. A new common ground where this partnership might be established is in the gamification medium. Gamification is the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. (For more on gamification, see Future pharma: Making games work for pharma.)
Half a billion people play Angry Birds, by Rovio, and that game model may be the medium for pharma-patient connections.
Games of destruction are compelling and I am one of the five hundred million downloaders. I joined the mayhem, even though my stomach sank, as the little wingless red birds lined up and jumped into my slingshot aimed at the pigs that had stolen their eggs. The little birds would explode in the process as well.
I was conflicted, especially because my husband and I are birders. How different this scenario is from poet Mary Oliver's gratitude for red birds firing up the winter landscape. I wondered if there could be a practical, positive use for a game like Angry Birds, perhaps among a community of chronically ill patients. For example, people with cystic fibrosis fight “angry bugs” like pseudomonas aeruginosa, MRSA, mycobacterium avium complex, C-difficile, and others all the time.
Recently, I listened to Gabe Zichermann's talk on how games make kids smarter and I began wrapping my imagination around my Angry Birds dilemma.
Gabe discussed gamification and the way kids learn. I wondered if we could "fire up" the interior landscape and the imaginations of sick patients by transforming a game like Angry Birds and morphing the pigs into "angry bugs" and the birds into an antibiotic armory? The skeleton of an already successful game like Angry Birds could be a model for pharma to interface with the patient audience.
Pharma could seek to apply the five criteria of fluid intelligence as described by Andrea Kuszewski in a talk at Harvard and referenced by Gabe in his TED talk:
Seek novelty. Enticing patients in a game format to learn more about their disease and the treatments is non-threatening and fun. People are hardwired to enjoy games. Patients may be hardwired to fear hospital stays, needles, medications, and painful treatments.
Challenge yourself. Chronic illness already creates unique challenges for every patient, including weariness, apathy, and fear. Playing games with challenging levels of achievement around science and correct treatment procedures could teach and encourage adherence.
Think creatively. Creativity should induce a revised perspective, allowing a patient to envision the landscape of the disease and treatment. The games should have self-expanding levels of knowledge and rewards as players progress.
Do things the hard way. Struggle is nothing new for a chronically ill community, but this could be a way to acknowledge patients’ efforts and adherence challenges.
Network. A social network game group would help all the stakeholders find others in similar circumstances. They could form teams in which patients, families, peers, centers, HCPs, scientists, and pharma engage the disease on the playing field in positive, competitive, and collaborative interactions.
I envision images from the treatment regimens of chronically ill patients (nebulizers, vials, petri dishes and more) being used in clever games that do not make light of the illness but rather encourage adherence and understanding. Both children and adults can benefit from comprehending the cause and effect processes in proper treatment regimens. Gamification will teach patients how to recognize and control symptoms and encourage pro-activity among patients and other stakeholders.
Through gamification, patients could move to new levels of understanding of their diseases and treatment. Greater adherence and quality of life may be the outcome.
For more on patient adherence, join the sector’s other key players at Patient Adherence Europe on May 31-June 1, 2012 in London.
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