Sunday, February 17, 2013

Can gaming theory improve patient engagement and experience?

One of the great challenges in reform is the engagement of the patient in lasting and meaningful ways, as well as improvement in the patient experience. Uncharted territory really and the old ways of doing things just won't cut it. New market realities and the rising of healthcare consumerism demand new innovation and thought. Unfortunately there is little disruptive innovation in healthcare to meet those challenges.

Enter gaming theory.

Gamification is not a new topic in marketing. It's been out there for a long time and used successfully by businesses to attract, retain and build the loyalty of its customers to the brand. Okay, I can hear it now, "but we are healthcare taking care of people in complex and mysterious ways that they can never understand and this isn't a game". It's not a game, but how you engage the patient and improve the experience is closely related. And my opinion is that you can't do one without the other. Look at this through the eye glass of a new linkage between engagement and experience.

If your goal is to engage the healthcare consumer, aka the patient, to stay in network, to improve health, to be personally responsible for health, then gamification is the way to go. This isn't about creating negative disincentives that have been tried in the past and failed. Those: it will it will cost you more if you go out of network; you pay a penalty for non-compliance; it shortens your life kind of actions and messages if you don't do this. That has never worked in healthcare and never will.

The point is you have to create a healthcare consumer that is highly motivated to act or comply in a way that meets the goals of the healthcare organization to engage and improve the experience.

So how does this happen?

It starts with game mechanics. Game mechanics is really the actions, tactics, mechanisms and motivational elements used to create an engaging and compelling experience for the healthcare consumer. It's about how you design your engagement and experience strategies and tactics that keep the healthcare consumer engaged at all levels contributing to a positive experience.
In game dynamics you tap into the motivations that result as part of the game experience driving continued participation by the healthcare consumer. This statement assumes that you fully understand the motivations of the healthcare consumer. You can't have effective game dynamics unless you know what the motivates the healthcare consumer.

And this is where I start shouting because healthcare organizations are generally clueless about what motivates patients because they don't do the market research. The choice of gaming tactics is an important decision. If you don't know what motivates the healthcare consumer and how to trigger those motivations, then how pray tell, can you design the game mechanics? Do the research.

Put game mechanics and game dynamics together in the right way and you can engage the patient and improve the experience. It's very different and not easy at all. No easy answers here. All the easy answer are already taken.

Gamification is a very powerful tool in marketing and this is but a brief overview.

Think it won't work in healthcare? Think about that the next time you fly your favorite airline, go to a shoppers club or pull out your rewards card for something.

Guess what, you're playing their game and you didn't even know it.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group.

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