Go and Play: Gaming and the NHS

Ben Heather | Digital Health | August 18, 2016

Pokemon Go has given a tantalising glimpse of mass gamification’s potential to improve health outcomes. But getting effective “health” games into the hands of patients and clinicians is no easy task. Ben Heather reports from last month’s Games for Health conference in Coventry.

In a room full of whizz bang graphics, fully immersive virtual reality therapy, and gamified counselling available on your mobile, it is the humble board game that turns out to have made the biggest impact on the NHS. Andy Yeoman, of Focus Games, speaks at length to a lecture hall full of coders, academics, and tech investors about the wonders of some cardboard and a few dice.

The games (and Focus has made dozens for NHS England and other health organisations) are essentially a series of questions. The players are awarded for correctly answering a question on sepsis or infection control or drug  errors by moving their piece forward on the board. Some clinicians, Yeoman says, get quite competitive. “It is essentially a pub quiz. It’s not that difficult, but it works.”

In introducing Yeoman, conference chair Professor Pamela Kato says he might seem like the odd one out at a conference focused on mobile and video. “But he has achieved something a lot of us find really difficult - getting into the NHS.” There is a lot of excitement around the possibilities of health games, particular on mobile devices, but their penetration into the NHS, where the priorities are balancing budgets, getting rid of mountains of paper, and, of course, quality of care, has been patchy to date...