We began this journey with a simple question: Who are the chronically ill patients with diabetes? We talked to people and studied the research. We learned who they are, what they like, and most importantly, what's the best way to reduce their risk and costs? What we, ultimately, discovered was that we needed to combine chronic disease management with mobile gaming.
With two doctors on our team, reducing diabetic risk seemed like it would be a simple challenge, however, it quickly became the most problematic of our questions. This is because the biggest challenge with diabetes management and prevention isn’t related to clinical guidelines, it’s related to engagement and motivation.
While, intuitively, one may think that patients should care more about and stay engaged with programs and apps designed to improve their health, studies overwhelmingly show that behavior is driven be emotions rather than rational thought. That’s why over 50% of Fitbits are in a dusty drawer, and putting calories on restaurant menus didn’t improve healthy eating. They both provide important information in the form of tracking and education, but they lack a strong motivational component. So we decided to take the tracking and education concepts found in numerous health apps and incorporate them into a true gaming experience. In this way, we leverage the inherent engaging nature of gaming to form an emotional connection and build commitment to the program.
In Heroes of Healthquest, players embark on a journey to save Healthalot from the Four Horsemen of the Healthpocalypse (Isolation, Apathy, Denial, and Ignorance). They play in teams battling through word puzzles using coins to make moves and unlock special features. However, to earn coins, diabetics track healthy behaviors that reinforce their doctor’s recommendations and follow clinical guidelines, such as diabetic medications, carbohydrate consumption, heart medications, blood sugar and HbA1c. Non-diabetic friends and family can play alongside diabetics by choosing healthy behaviors to track such as exercise, medications, sleep, smoking, etc., which creates a supportive team and accountability. Additionally, diabetics are aided through educational alerts and warnings when bad behaviors are logged, supplemental healthy activities, called HealthTreks, and diabetic mini-quiz educational touchpoints.
While we’re proud of what we’ve developed, we acknowledge that we’re still at the beginning of a grander journey. In the future, we plan to incorporate objective tracking devices such as wearables, medication trackers, and smart glucometers. And we can easily modify the program to keep it fresh by incorporating different themes like football, NASCAR, or zombies, as well as, using different simple puzzle games similar to battleship, scrabble of Sudoku. Finally, we can complement diabetes by diving deeper into other chronic diseases, such as COPD and Heart disease.
With improved engagement, education, tracking, accountability and support through Heroes of Healthquest, diabetic patients can greatly reduce their risk and costs. We hope you can see the potential that lies within Heroes of Healthquest from what we’ve described, but the best way to understand our vision is to experience it and play. Thanks for your consideration and remember that the fate of Healthalot is in your hands. It’s time to see if you’re one of the Heroes of Healthquest!