Social Games Help Patients Take Medication

Pablo Valerio, International Business & IT Consultant | 7/5/2013 | 34 comments

Pablo Valerio
One of the biggest problems of treating older patients with chronic medical conditions is getting them to comply with treatment methods (like taking medication), especially when they live alone. Medical research shows that half of chronic patients do not adhere to their medication regimen. According to research published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings:
    This poor adherence to medication leads to increased morbidity and death and is estimated to incur costs of approximately $100 billion per year.

While many electronic solutions exist to tackle this issue -- alarms, mobile apps, electronic pill dispensers -- they are only successful for a short period of time, and soon patients fall back to their old behavior of forgetting to take their medication on time or forgetting to take it at all.

Telefónica Digital I+D, the research arm of the global telecom company, developed an app called Movipill, designed to help people to comply while creating a social network and a point-rewards system that encourages participants not only to take their medication on time but actually to look forward to it. The app also gives patients important information about activities related to their conditions and encourages exercise and healthy living. According to a report by the researchers who created MoviPill:

    Persuasive techniques could address this problem [of forgetting medication] by shifting the focus from a human activity that we are not typically good at (i.e., remembering) to an activity that we tend to be good at and enjoy (i.e., socializing).

Basically, they claim, previous attempts focused on reminding patients to take action and trying to make them understand the adversary effects of non-compliance -- methods that did not successfully motivate patients to do better.

Movipill is designed as a social game for elders, and the developers took a lot of care making a user interface that was simple to use, while providing a rewarding experience for patients. The aim of the game is “to take their medication the right number of times per day (prescription adherence) and as close as possible to the time prescribed by their doctor (regimen adherence).”

Patients see the required time and dose on the screen. After they take that dose, they enter what time they actually took it and earn game points -- the closer to the prescribed time you are, the more points you get. By the end of the week the app shows the winner to all players and starts another game for the following week. The game awards points based on daily compliance, not by the amount of times people take medication. Obviously the patients do not see any information about the medication taken by others and only see personal information that participants freely share online.

In order to encourage participants to be punctual with their medication, the app emits a soft alarm 15 minutes after the prescribed time in case the user didn’t take the medication. Then the user knows he lost one point, encouraging him to remember the next time if he wants to win the competition. In the initial trial conducted by Telefónica, the participants did not know each other, but were able to post comments and engage in online chats using the game interface, creating a sense of community.

The results of the trial were encouraging, helping elders to take their medications on time and the right dose. Also, as noted in the MoviPill paper:

    A strong negative correlation between age and regimen adherence was not significant anymore when elders played the game, which could be evidence that MoviPill helped alleviate age-related memory issues.

    The older the participants were, the more non-compliant they were; but not when using the game.

Combining social games with medication reminders helps engage patients to comply with the medication, and can be used for other activities, such as exercise, remembering doctor’s appointments, recording other data such as weight and blood pressure, etc. Apps like this are extremely helpful for patients living at home, with and without help.

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MDMConsult   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   8/1/2013 6:45:59 PM
Re: What if they cheat? ;)
@nasimsom Yes, it would be interesting to see how leadership further evolves in this space. Areas in which being a "content producer", more social media literate, an overall leader in various innovations within this space will be executed. Being able to lead in real time engagement and having the technical skills is a must.
sherly_mendoza   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/31/2013 9:52:06 AM
Social Games for Patients' Medication
This is an interesting app. And it sounds really fun! It's amazing what creativity and innovation can create...This app was clearly made with the intent of addressing the need for safety and convenience of patients - whether they're at home or in an assisted living facility. Additionally, social games effect a number of positive outcomes - aside from helping patients take their medication at the right time and with the right dosage. The games can help improve their cognitive skills. Also, they will look forward to doing something they like every day. I hope more innovative ideas like this hit the market pretty soon!
SunitaT   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/28/2013 4:47:57 AM
Re : Social Games Help Patients Take Medication
The arena of medical education and training can look to the impressive innovation and action shown with video games and patient health for inspiration in designing their own educational involvements. The time has come for treatment procedures to explore the use of video games as adjuncts to therapy to help patients take full advantage of advances in treatments. Medical curricula creators also should consider counting video games as teaching tools so that our wealth of health care resources can be delivered safely and efficiently.
adil   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/26/2013 1:56:51 AM
Re: Good for socially competitive people
Yes you are right, I also think that the focus is on the socially inclined people. So it should work for those people who falls under that criterion regardless the age factor. So I believe, if it works, it will work for everyone.
kstaron   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/25/2013 9:28:21 PM
Good for socially competitive people
Interesting concept. I can see it might be a good motivational tool for socially inclined, competitive people, regardless of age. I doubt it would work for everyone, but it could make a dent in changing the habits of some.
Taimoor Zubair   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/19/2013 3:24:06 AM
this is needed.
This actually might be pretty interesting. The number of people who need motivation just for the simple task of taking medicines is astoundingly high. I myself , happen to be one of them. If this game can grab my attention I will be absolutely willingly to play it. A lot of old people can also benefit from this greatly.
vnewman   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/10/2013 10:37:40 PM
Re: Might work with teenagers but not older patients?
@Sara - Me?  Elderly?  Never!  In my world, the concept of old and elderly continually increases exponentially whereupon the thought of being 30 used to be followed by "Ewww, that's so old.  Gross."  Now, I find myself saying things like - "She's only 59 - that's so young!"  :)))

But I digress - this concept is great as are all those that attempt to make "work" or "chores" seem more like "fun."  It's cognitive reframing at its best.   
Nicky48   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/9/2013 12:02:57 PM
Re: Might work with teenagers but not older patients?
@Sara - I'm getting up there myself so no disrespect to the elderly, and we'll all hopefully be able to enjoy the wonders of this age.  However I do think the people currently in age group 80+ are very vary of technology.

I help a lady who is 80 with her computer. Yahoo changed their web interface for email and she was totally lost with just those few changes..

But I do see your point that this might help us in a few years time !

Sara Peters   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/9/2013 11:53:50 AM
Re: Might work with teenagers but not older patients?
@angelfuego ooOOOooo. Now this is an excellent point: "The social aspect of it might create a feeling of belonging. It might help the elderly patients feel less alone and more supported by being able to communicate with those that can relate or provide useful information." And also, it's probably a lot more enjoyable to talk about your medication with your peers with the same trouble than it is with some saccharine-sweet nurse who talks to you like you're six years old.
Sara Peters   Social Games Help Patients Take Medication   7/9/2013 11:51:07 AM
Re: Might work with teenagers but not older patients?
@zerox203 Well I certainly get your point here -- "In the age of social media, there's such a thing as trying too hard to apply technology to everything." Agreed. But I still think we might be underestimating our elderly. After all, my grandmother is 83 years old and she just bought a brand new car yesterday, and she has a smartphone. 

She also happens to be the most organized woman on earth and would probably never need a reminder to take her medication, but still...

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