Can Healthy Habits Be Fun? Incorporating “Gamification” Into Care Management

June 19, 2020 HMS

Many health plans are grappling with how to implement care management programs in ways that will deliver positive health outcomes for members and also generate long-term cost savings. The fact of the matter is that the best outcomes occur when members are actively engaged in their own health.

To manage various chronic health conditions, adhering to a recommended daily practice is often recommended. For example, individuals may need to take medications once a day or even more frequently. Alternatively, some health issues are improved by daily exercise or by abstaining from certain behaviors.

Gamification – that is, the incorporation of game-design elements and principles into non-game contexts – is one avenue that organizations are exploring to stimulate and maintain member interest in these types of healthy behaviors. Including a daily lottery incentive in care plans, for instance, may be an effective way to promote healthy behaviors among members.

One type of daily lottery requires members to select a personal number between 0 and 99. Each day, a number between 0 and 99 is selected via a lottery. If the winning number matches the member’s personal number and they have participated in a desirable health behavior on the day before, they receive a payment.

This example and others have found that gamification can boost adherence to healthy activities on a daily basis. However, not all gamification approaches are equal. Those that incorporate behavioral economics principles tend to have better results. When creating care management programs that include gamification, health plans may want to consider concepts such as:

  • Misinterpretation of small probabilities. Many people are willing to participate in games and programs with low expected values of winning. This explains the popularity of state lotteries.
  • Loss aversion. The loss of a certain amount is often more troubling to people than the gain of an equivalent amount. For example, people are more upset by losing $5 than by winning $5.
  • Regret aversion. Some people fear making decisions that they believe may be wrong in hindsight.

The daily lottery incentive program described above leverages each of these ideas to motivate individuals to engage in desirable behavior. Innovative care management programs leverage gamification and behavioral economics to engage patients, as well as technology-based solutions to expand the reach of care management programs.

If your organization is interested in learning more about gamification in the realm of healthcare, you may want to explore the work done by the “Nudge Unit” at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation. To learn more about how health plans are implementing technology-based care management programs like HMS’ Essette, contact us today.

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