How Effective is Gamification in Increasing Patient Motivation?
A combination of gamification, financial incentives and social support helped to increase physical activity among overweight or obese veterans, new research shows. For the 12-week clinical trial, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, divided 180 patients into three groups: gamification with social support, gamification with social support and a loss-framed financial incentive group, and a control cohort. All participants were veterans with a body mass index greater than or equal to 25. In addition, all participants monitored their step counts with wearable devices; however, the two gamification groups also played a 12-week game with various levels and points, and they received emails from a designated support member. Participants with the loss-framed financial incentive were given $120 in a virtual account and had $10 deducted for each week they did not attain their target number of steps.
While patients in the gamification and social support group increased their unadjusted mean daily number of steps by 433, those in the gamification plus social support and loss-framed financial incentives group saw an increase of 1,224 adjusted steps a day. "Most programs deliver rewards after the goal is achieved, but this clinical trial, similar to previous ones, shows that offering financial upfront and letting participants know they can be an effective strategy," noted Mitesh Patel, MD, senior study. Still, the results were not sustained over the 8-week follow-up period, pointing to the "need to learn more about the duration and ability to sustain an effect over longer-periods of time," said Anish Agarwal, MD, the study's lead author. The findings, published in JAMA Network Open, also highlight the trend in the healthcare industry of using wearables and telehealth to boost patient motivation and promote chronic disease management.
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