What does gamification in healthcare marketing mean for patient engagement?

Many people have only a vague conception of what they mean when they use the term "patient engagement," but select advertising agencies with their fingers on the pulse of the public's feelings toward healthcare know where to focus to achieve significant results. Some organizations believe that traditional solutions that cast a wide net over an even wider population of patients will still feed revenue streams, though many other companies are moving ahead with new ways of interacting with patients.

According to a 2013 survey by market research firm TeleVox, as many as 83 percent of patients do not follow every instruction given to them by physicians. Some may cut corners on individual discharge actions, while others go off medications as soon as they are left to their own devices.

However, an additional 42 percent of patients indicated that they would be more amenable to sticking to their prescriptions if they were regularly encouraged or otherwise contacted by medical professionals about their conditions. Only 45 percent of providers admitted that they operated under similar policies, and a startling 50 percent claimed that their responsibilities as stewards of their patients' health stopped when they walked out of the doctor's office.

How can healthcare marketing agencies bridge this gap between patients who seek engagement and physicians who are too overworked to provide it? According to several experts and recent round of funding, gamification of healthcare - the infusion of video game-like elements into marketing solutions - may be the next big break for advertisers in search of greater engagement.

Can patients learn on their own with gamified marketing?

High scores and good health
Within the interconnected world of coordinated care, small improvements in basic treatment can have large effects down the line. Consulting firm ICF International penned a report that indicated mobile apps and interactive digital marketing solutions that couch educational materials within a game-like user interface have the potential to massively improvement clinical outcomes.

Gamified healthcare marketing can be anything from simple apps that track jogging distances and times to fully developed desktop programs that function like multi-million dollar video games. These solutions do more than just provide information to patients - they contextualize data on their conditions through fun and engaging packages that seek to change behaviors.

A key to gamification in healthcare is the nature of rewards providers offer to patients. There must be some incentive to continuing these games, and though improved clinical outcomes is the end-goal for all parties involved, giving patients an intermediary step to work toward can benefit the entire process.

"Engaging the consumer in their own healthcare is the missing pillar in healthcare today."

Getting in early
Gamification in healthcare is still something of an emerging field, and while that means there might not be much of an infrastructure within the industry at the moment, organizations that get in on the ground floor have the most potential to grow. Xconomy.com reported that population health firm WellTok signed an $18.7 million funding deal to invest in a new round of gamified marketing solutions.

"The promise of engaging the consumer in their own healthcare is the missing pillar in healthcare today, and it is not being addressed," Jeff Margolis, chief executive officer at WellTok, told Xconomy.com. 

However, providers will need to be smart about how they position themselves in the burgeoning gamification market. Partnering with an advertising agency that is not well-versed in how patients best absorb complicated medical information will only lead to lost investments and a great deal of ground to make up on competitors. Choose a healthcare marketing agency that can adopt the patient perspective as its own to craft personable, gamified solutions for improved engagement across the board.

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