With the new season of Game of Thrones in full swing and the current culture obsession around video games, the topic of games is pretty common lately. I recently ran across a new game related term and concept that I found very interesting – “gamification.” Brian Washburn, a systems engineer at the Mayo Clinic published a great article on the topic in this month’s HFM Journal. This is actually a new tool being used in a variety of industries, including healthcare, to improve employee engagement and ultimately performance and productivity. As younger employees enter the workforce, they bring a whole new perspective with them on games. Carnegie Mellon University noted a very shocking statistic around this, indicating that by the time they are 21 years old many young Americans will have spent over 10,000 hours playing video games. That is as much time as these same students spent on their formal education!

Gamification is intended to tap into this experience base and “gamer orientation.” Specifically, gamification can be defined as “the use of game elements in any context that is non-game related, where users are encouraged to interact with learning material and usually are provided with rewards for accomplishment.” To apply gamification to the workplace, Washburn notes that four key elements must be considered.

  1. A good story, which creates context for the game and a challenge for the user.
  2. Immediate feedback for the gamer, which demonstrates success or failure.
  3. Focus on a single – behavior for a relatively short period of time (60-90 days)
  4. Rewards for recognition that are non-monetary such as points, levels or leaderboards, much like the video games they are used to.

That said, it is important to recognize that just like we have different personality types in the workforce there are also different gamer personalities that must be considered when thinking about a gamification approach to the workplace. Amy Jo Kim, Ph.D. , identified four different gaming personalities that should be considered in this approach:

  1. Creators – Motivated by a desire to express their creativity
  2. Competitors – Motivated by competing with self or others
  3. Explorers – Primary interest in exploring the context of the game for new knowledge
  4. Collaborators – Enjoy using games to socialize and win with others

In thinking about deploying gamification in healthcare it is key to match the game strategy to the employee types and the desired motivators. As an example, several years ago I had the opportunity to work on a great project through ASHP to support FIP pharmacist education around specific disease states. The project started out with a focus on diabetes and the importance of a team approach. A computer simulation model was constructed around patients entering the ED and how the pharmacist, nurse and physician would treat the patient. There were more than 17,000 possible scenarios that could present and to be successful the entire team had to be successful. If the nurse and pharmacist were correct but the physician was not the entire group did not pass. This approach not only encouraged individual skill development but also team development. Whether I knew it or not this was gamification!

Another application might be in driving better patient behavior. I had the opportunity to participate in a project to improve outcomes in hemophilia patients and one element identified was better patient documentation of health status and activity. We designed an approach that used personal computers and game packages recognizing that with this patient population of primarily younger males this could be a very powerful motivator. A game package was set up using a “lock and key” approach with the patient’s health diary entry as the key that unlocked the game package. Once again – gamification!

There could be multiple other applications around things like employee wellness where games could be set up to look at daily steps with leaderboards, etc. or required educational activity. As our workforce changes this is an interesting new concept that could help drive better employee engagement and outcomes while also being fun.

Share this on Twitter: