Video games to revolutionize health and health care

The worldwide video gaming industry is a thriving business – with hardware and software sales reaching 43.5 billion in 2007 and projected to grow to more than 61 billion in the next 4 years.  This growth isn’t propelled by just the latest teenage gaming craze, but by a variety of nontraditional organizations integrating video games, immersive simulations and virtual worlds to improve effectiveness and engagement across all business lines.

The October release of a new book, Changing the Game: How Video Games are Transforming the Future of Business, underscores this notion that video games are becoming a valuable tool for mainstream business. Used for everything from marketing to training to increasing productivity, “the evolution of video games has definitely given companies the ability to create virtual sandboxes that can provide a competitive edge.” As importantly, gaming can also create opportunities to reduce costs and increase profitability.

It may be surprising to some that the health care industry has been among the first to recognize the ‘game-changing’ potential of games in business and other environments.  Leaders in the health care sector are now embracing video games as an integral part of a digitally enabled health culture.

“Health eGames” are video games that deliver measurable health benefits. It is a gaming category that continues to gain accolades from organizations experiencing success by combining digital education, engagement and entertainment to support health and fitness. Health eGames have now been vetted by significant research efforts, and the data shows that people can, in fact, “game” their way to a healthy outcome – whether that be managing diabetes, recovering from cancer, improving eating habits or losing weight. Health eGames include everything from Wii Fit, Brain Age and Dance Dance Revolution to Re-Mission (for teens with Cancer), Juice Jumble (from Playnormous) and Amazing Food Detective (from Kaiser Permanente). 

It is clear that Health eGames will be part of accelerated growth in the overall video games market, with projected value nearing $7 billion in the next 12 months. Today, there are more than 300 consumer focused Health eGames offering an active, multimedia video experience across multiple platforms—from personal computers and consoles such as Wii, XBOX and PS2, to online and mobile applications such as iPhone’s accelerometer and Nintendo DS. And rapid growth in adoption is being driven by some unexpected demographic segments, including mothers, seniors and even toddlers.

A report being released in October 2008 by iConecto, a leading digital media solutions firm focused on health, delivers the first comprehensive review of the Health eGames industry. The report documents a consumer and professional market and outlines 5 major categories for consumer Health eGames including: Exergaming, Brain Fitness, Health Eating, Condition Management and Stress Reduction. The report highlights the two decade history of Health eGames, details market size estimates, reviews the major players, highlights the market drivers and identifies the business and investment opportunity. For more information on the “Health eGames Market Report – How Video Games, Social Media and Virtual Worlds will Revolutionize Health” visit www.Gaming4Health.com.

Health eGames is driving a paradigm shift in health and medicine.  Health plans, employers, hospitals and health systems, for-profit health care companies, schools, universities and government will see their products, services, markets and customers transformed through the growing power and influence of Health eGames. 

Pioneers such as Robert Wood Johnson, Humana, CIGNA, Kaiser Permanente, HopeLab and many others are already staking out territory in the Health eGames industry.  As this trend continues to grow, health leaders, investors and decision-makers are faced with an important decision: Take action now and ride the wave of Health eGames by building innovative solutions for engagement and effectiveness with the community of 200 million monthly gamers who cut across all demographic categories, or hold back and run the risk of missing out on one of the most significant social, cultural and technological trends of the next 10 years.

For additional intelligence and insights on Health eGaming join us at the Health 2.0 Conference. Join us for the “Video Gaming in Health Care” panel at 4 pm on the second day of the conference.

Douglas Goldstein is an “eFuturist” who delivers insights and recommendations on how emerging and electronic technology and entertainment can improve our lives and organizations. He is the author of 10 widely regarded books on health and technology.

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6 replies »

  1. Well… I visit your website first time and found this site very useful and interesting! Well… you guys doing nice work and I just want to say that keep rocking and keep it up!!!!
    Yes that is a nice idea but have you ever thought of going up to the biggest guy on the subway and telling him your thoughts on this. I wonder what he might do, or would you even do it.
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  2. Really interesting topic and for most video games, they tend to be a virtual representation of our world. I already read something on a similar topic. A doctor heals people from their paranoia.

  3. Really interesting topic and for most video games, they tend to be a virtual representation of our world. I already read something on a similar topic. A doctor heals people from their paranoia.

  4. There is something appallingly pathetic about the state, and the state of discourse, of health care in the United States. Every attempt to converse seriously about health care is maliciously buried under the ruins of special interest groups, corporate profit margins and political rhetoric of the two major parties and their benefactors. While health care may appear to be a constantly bandied about topic, there has been only modest debate about reforms since Newt Gingrich, the pharmaceutical industry and the erstwhile fictional naysayers Harry and Louise foiled the Clinton administration’s mammoth plan to revolutionize American health care.
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  5. As the author of the earlier THCB post on gaming, I want to pass along that I am enjoying seeing this concept get more discussion. I think folks are onto something here that has a lot of potential.
    I also wanted to toss out a term I coined to describe the potential for games to be used in health care and fitness promotion. It is going into a longer white paper I am planning to write on the topic. It is: The Poppins Principle.
    As a kid I loved the Disney movie Mary Poppins, which features a song called “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The lyrics describe how a spoonfull of sugar helps the medicine go down. However, this line is the one that I thought illustrated the potential for gaming technology in health care:
    “In ev’ry job that must be done
    There is an element of fun
    you find the fun and snap!
    The job’s a game
    Gaming technology might be that spoonful of sugar to makes medical care and retaining health a bit more fun.

  6. Great post, Douglas, very informative! I justed blogged on this topic a few days ago, http://blogs.sas.com/hls/index.php?/archives/7-Better-health-through-blasters.html, citing James Cooley’s prior post on The Healthcare Blog. One point I was trying to make is that, beyond the cross fertilization of technology advancements, both industries are facing a converging ecosystem that is setting the stage for how each market will look in the future. An exciting topic to be sure!
    Kindest regards,