Healthcare is Not a Game, but it Should Be

Healthcare is serious business. In the United States, healthcare costs eat up 18% of the GDP and are rising quickly. The US spends twice as much per person as any other country on healthcare but has outcomes that rank at the bottom of the peer nations. Private insurers, federal payers, and large healthcare systems dominate the conversation. Somewhere at the bottom of all this is the patient.

Americans in this system are led to believe that their health is the responsibility of others. After all, the insurers dictate which providers they can see and providers decide which services they can receive. Medication and surgery are the go-to options, requiring minimal effort from the patient. Although doctors have easy access to patient medical records, a patient only has access to their own record by requesting it, paying for it and waiting a while to get it. When it arrives, it is nearly incomprehensible. Americans have outsourced their personal health to the healthcare system.

Disconnecting people from responsibility for their own health has led to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and chronic health problems. At the root of the healthcare problem is the issue of how to change the behavior of Americans toward more healthy lifestyles and put the control and responsibility back in their hands.

The advent of consumer wearable sensors like the Fitbit and other activity monitors have shown the power of immediate feedback to change behavior. A recent study showed that nearly half of adults who used a wearable monitor for activity tracking experienced strong behavior change. This may not seem extraordinary until you realize that all the money that has been spent on educational tools and public service campaigns has produced very little result in terms of increasing healthy behavior. Personal, immediate and tangible feedback with reinforcement is the key to behavior change.

Games are the digital personification of real-time feedback and reinforcement. Digital games have proven to be engaging for people of all ages and are the key to shaping patient behavior toward better health outcomes. Digital games can be delivered on a cell phone, providing 24/7 access to the patient’s attention and activities and allowing healthcare activities to be integrated into daily life instead of happening only occasionally in a clinic or healthcare setting. The feedback, interaction, metrics and goals captured in digital games may be the solution to the American health care problem.



Maria Schneider is an engineer and scientist with university degrees in Physics, Electrical Engineering and Bio-Medical Engineering. She is co-founder and CEO of Dynofit, Inc., a startup Biotech company that develops tools to promote improved health outcomes and lower costs for physical rehabilitation by supporting patients to understand and effectively implement their recovery protocols. Schneider has worked at NASA and Bell Labs and has served as the principal investigator for a National Institute of Health grant developing smart orthotics for pediatrics. Her passion for helping patients with physical recovery stems from helping her son thrive in spite of his cerebral palsy and using technology to help him and others live their best lives. Schneider lives in Dallas with her husband, son and dogs and volunteers with a non-profit to help low income communities.



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Thursday, 14 November 2019