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Pioneer's Commitment to Health Games Profiled in New Games for Health Journal

Mar 12, 2012, 10:00 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

I recently had the good fortune of sitting down with Bill Ferguson to discuss the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s pivotal role in health games research for the inaugural issue of the Games for Health Journal. In our talk, I detailed the Foundation’s early investment in the field, the challenges to advancing health games and some grantee findings to date.

Thinking about our conversation, I’m struck by how far the field has come since the early days of our health games support in 2004. Back then, there wasn’t much intersection between the games space and the health space, but Pioneer saw potential. So we worked with Ben Sawyer (@BenSawyer) of Digitalmill to do some community building within the gaming industry around health interests and funded the first-ever Games for Health Conference.   

Now, with seven conferences behind us and the eighth scheduled for June 12-14, 2012, in Boston, Pioneer can proudly claim we helped create and sustain a way for the games and health communities to come together. But we didn’t stop there.

Pioneer expanded its support to the Health Games Research national program, directed by Debra Lieberman at UC Santa Barbara (who is featured in a roundtable discussion of health games experts in the Journal), where we are seeing our 21 grantees test some fascinating ways health games can be optimally designed. They're exploring game features such as competition, collaboration, social comparison, social support, nurturing of characters, immersion in fictional worlds and alternate realities, interacting with a human-like robots to motivate exercise, using a mobile phone game as a substitute for a cigarette, and much more. And there’s more to come.

Health Games Research's work to identify a broad range of features that make for effective health games will help to further expand the creative horizons of future developers. Well-designed and well-implemented games can motivate and support prevention, lifestyle behavior change, and self-management of chronic conditions, and Pioneer is proud to be part of this work. We are excited to see a journal devoted to the research, development, and clinical application of games and health.

Check out the inaugural issue and read about the work of Pioneer’s grantees and others in this important field on the Pioneer Health Games homepage. Tell @pioneerrwjf or @gamesresearch what you think.

Health Games Research Profiled by Inside Healthcare IT

Feb 17, 2012, 12:26 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

The Pioneer Portfolio is committed to supporting trailblazers who are changing the way we think about health and health care.  Debra Lieberman, PhD, director of Health Games Research, a national program of Pioneer and headquartered at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is breaking ground by using health games to transform the way prevention, self-care, and health care are practiced.

The February 9 issue of Inside Healthcare IT profiles Lieberman’s research on how video games can be used to improve players’ health behaviors and health outcomes, and thereby reduce the cost of care.  After two decades of research on games that improve health behaviors in areas such as smoking prevention, diabetes self-management and asthma self-management, she has found that some games can have a dramatic impact on health.

“Video games can change people in fundamental ways that can lead to better health behaviors,” Lieberman said in the article. “Well-designed games can change people’s perceived risk for experiencing serious health problems, their sense of self-efficacy, or self-confidence, that they can carry out specific health behaviors successfully, and their perceptions of social norms. These and many other changes in people’s attitudes, emotions, understanding, and skills can tip the balance toward behavior change. While games can be fun and can teach health facts, they can do a great deal more to motivate and support better health.”

Check out the article to learn more about Lieberman’s research on health games and tell @pioneerrwjf or @gamesresearch what you think on Twitter.

What Do We Really Need from mHealth?

Nov 29, 2011, 1:04 AM, Posted by Al Shar

The December 5-7 mHealth Summit is approaching and I’m pleased and excited to be moderating the special session: What I Really Need from mHealth: Five Perspectives on Value.

Pioneer has been involved with multiple aspects of mHealth since very early on and has seen interest grow into what sometimes seems to me to be an “irrational exuberance,” to borrow a phrase from Alan Greenspan. I’m concerned that we’re on the way to another bubble that’s in danger of bursting with unfortunate consequences. The fact is we often don’t know what “works,” and even what “working” means. And that’s why it’s so important that we discuss the different ways value needs to be demonstrated in mHealth.

This mHealth Summit panel will talk about value from the perspectives of the individual, the provider, the payer, the regulator and the researcher. These can be different, but from time to time they converge. Rather than having a number of separate presentations, experts will engage in discussion around a hypothetic but realistic scenario of a mobile health device and what’s needed to provide enough “value” for each to adopt, approve, purchase, share, fund and embrace this as a tool for better health. It is sure to be a lively and informative discussion.

I hope that you’ll be able to join us either in person in Washington, D.C. or electronically to help us shape the dialogue.

Follow the conference discussion through #mHS11, leave a comment below, or follow me on Twitter to join in the conversation.

Converging Ideas at the 2011 mHealth Summit

Nov 22, 2011, 9:55 AM, Posted by Al Shar

Sometimes things just come together. We funded the first mHealth Summit because it was interesting and pioneering, and it seemed to have a connection to a few of our Project HealthDesign grants. Then came our involvement with and support of Quantified Self, Open mHealth, the Stanford Mobile Health 2011 conference and the mHealth Evidence meeting. Other programs, like our national program Health Games Research, Games for Health Conference and the Reality Mining meeting that we funded at MIT in 2009, also have strong mHealth associations.

This is more than just coincidence--rather, mHealth focuses on many of the qualities that make Pioneer “pioneering.” mHealth has the potential to radically change the way health and health care is delivered, it is inherently oriented to the individual, and it is an area not yet burdened with the organizational and bureaucratic complexities of traditional health care. mHealth is a place where something radical can happen.

It is therefore particularly gratifying to see that Pioneer will be well-represented at the 2011 mHealth Summit on December 5-7 in Washington, D.C., with grantees featured in sessions on Open mHealth, The Evolution of Gaming and its Effect on Prevention and Wellness, and Wireless Patient Monitoring in Care Facilities: The Future of Wearable mHealth Applications, Devices, and Sensors, and with a  Pioneer-sponsored session, What I Really Need from mHealth: Five Perspectives on Value. This session builds on a discussion that began in August at a Pioneer co-sponsored workshop on mHealth Evidence.

I hope that you’ll be able to join us at the conference, tweet me at @alshar using #mHS11,  and help frame what I’m sure will be a very important discussion.