At the recent Games For Health conference a variety of developers and companies displayed their ideas for how gamifying health care could improve health outcomes in a scalable and sustainable form that is fun for patients, or at least pleasant enough to want to participate. Due to clinical responsibilities, Medgadget only got to visit part of the recent conference in Boston, but we were impressed by what we saw.
There were two main user groups targeted at the conference, healthcare practitioners and patients. Most of the programs geared toward healthcare practitioners were different forms of simulation, some even using software similar to “The Sims” to simulate an emergency room’s response to a mass casualty event, allowing hospitals to try out different workflow patterns and role responsibilities in-silico before a big event arrived. Of the patient targeted programs and apps, many had to do with behavioral change, most using the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model to provide a structured path to take patients along treatment programs for various indications. These CBT games were demoed in various presentations and booths and ranged from concepts to those already in distribution.
One of the more developed programs is a depression treatment program from the University of Auckland called SPARX that is potentially going to be released later this year. SPARX is also one of the only games shown at the conference with a peer-reviewed study behind it. A BMJ article in April 2012 showed that in 187 New Zealand adolescents aged 12-19 seeking treatment for depression SPARX was non-inferior to in-person CBT at end of treatment and at 3 month follow-up. Impressed with SPARX’s potential and that a good randomized study had been done to show effectiveness, Linked Wellness licensed the game from the University of Auckland to distribute it commercially. David Burt, the CEO and Founder of Linked Wellness, promoted the game at Games For Health and said that initially the game would be targeted at adolescents and those who don’t have access to treatment, or those that would not normally encounter treatment, and so would be available without requiring a clinician to be involved. In terms of FDA regulation, Burt and his company believes that SPARX and games like it are self help tools that do not otherwise connect to a Class II device, and that current FDA draft guidance indicates that they are below the current threshold for registration. Linked Wellness hopes to price the game at a level similar to generic medical treatment for depression, and in the future might make different versions of the game for other behavioral health indications and other medical conditions with behavioral components such as asthma and diabetes.
On the other end of the development spectrum at Games for Health are companies like Litesprite, a new firm, but already a finalist in Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Games to Generate Data Challenge. Founder and CEO Swatee Surve was at Games for Health to promote her company and network with more mature gaming companies. She and her team are working on a mobile casual game that uses CBT to treat anxiety and depression, but specifically targeting women, a demographic Surve feels is underserved in the Games for Health community.
Between these companies are a range of games and therapies in development at different stages of production. Customers and patients should look forward to a new era in which the therapy for behavioral health comes from the same smartphone used to get directions to the medical center.
Link: Games for Health…