Is Gamification the Up-and-Coming Trend in Pharma?

With the implementation of the ACA, pharma is utilizing a variety of techniques to improve patient outcomes. From tracking anonymized patients through the treatment process to building websites around disease states, pharma is getting closer to patients than ever before.

Definition and Case Study

Gamification is the “use of game-thinking and game-mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users and solve problems.” While this trend has become popular in other industries, such as exercise apps or travel sites (e.g., TripAdvisor’s review “badges”), pharma has yet to fully embrace it. Part of the reason may be the serious side of pharmaceutical science (curing an ailment, life vs. death, etc.) and the wrong impression that could be conveyed through a playful approach to the patient. In other instances, regulatory rules may be an issue inside the U.S and abroad.

A recent case study was conducted to see if gamification could improve the execution of clinical trials among Life Sciences companies. The researchers wanted to see if they could improve portions of the process that were typically bottlenecks. They set up internal game-like elements that rewarded behavior with virtual tickets when tasks were completed. Users could see their own and competitor ticket count, with the grand prize being a “Data Hero” title and recognition within the company.

Did gamification work? How?

Results of the case study were impressive. Daily activity increased 300% over what was observed prior to implementing gamification. The costs were low, as the rewards were virtual and essentially free. Yet, people were motivated to participate by the fun and competitive nature of the trial – mainly the option to compare peers performance in real-time.

In order to successfully run the study, the team designed a structure where they:

  • Determined the behavior they wanted to modify and set a goal around it
  • Included social reporting, so that participants can track their own progress and see how competitors were performing
  • Built progressive stages throughout the study, so that participants could feel good about moving to higher levels
  • Set a reasonable time frame to ensure interest remained high
  • Established a fun prize or incentive

Other Pharma Applications

Could this approach be applied beyond the clinical trial process? Gamification is already being used by some digital health companies to support disease state management or lifestyle improvement (e.g. Audax Health).

Could pharma build similar use cases with gamification methods to support better health? For example, companies could use this technique to motivate staff to resolve reimbursement issues, assist patients with clearing REMs requirements, or help people get on patient assistance programs.

In addition, the commercial team could use gamified activities or applications to involve HCPs more, such as gamifiying physician e-learning about their product or CME about a disease state. Marketing could create campaigns using gamification with the aim of providing better patient support and ultimately improve adherence.

The past years have shown examples of large pharma companies adopting gamification elements in their business strategy. For instance, Sanofi created an application for children with Type I Diabetes called Monster Manor. Monster Manor encourages users to track their glucose levels and help improve their adherence to treatment. It’s a fun and engaging application that involves elements, such as piñatas and monster pets, and is integrated with BlueLoopglucose tracker. Parents can monitor their child’s glucose levels and provide encouragement within the app.

Another example is what Janssen did with Sorted: The Daily Organizer. This 2013 award winning app helps people with ADHD set tasks, assign priorities with goals, and gain points at completion – perfect for someone in this community that may need support with these types of functions.

Gartner predicts that by 2015, 50% of all organizations will be using gamification techniques. In 2016, they expect businesses to spend $2.6 billion in this area. Will Pharma be part of this trend? If done correctly, the potential remains to improve patient outcomes, increase sales, and provide a little fun to the community. Who would oppose to that?