How Healthcare HR Can Improve Patient Care With Gamification

Senior Director of Marketing

Nurses are expected to wash their hands frequently to prevent the spread of illness and infection, but they may not always follow protocol, so some employers have established reporting systems for recording each hand washing. Jeff Dolan, Vice President of Sales at gamification platform LevelEleven, says his company worked with a hospital that wanted to boost hand-washing reporting compliance among nurses.

To help them, the company implemented a gamification software solution that integrated the reporting box on the computer and device screens nurses were already using as part of their patient care process. Nurses checked off a box each time they washed their hands as usual. The software, however, offered a twist: Each nurse’s answers and the answers of the other nurses serving the same shift were displayed in real time.

The result? Significant increases in reporting compliance, Dolan says.

Many of us are familiar with the gamification of individual healthcare. FitBits and other health trackers have inspired many people to change their behavior. Furthermore, gamification can also be used on a larger scale to improve patient care, as in Dolan’s hand-washing reporting compliance example. It’s still an emerging tactic but one with great potential.

What Is Gamification?

Simply put, gamification is the use games or gaming techniques to engage people to reach goals.

Performance management and clinical safety efforts can benefit from gamification in healthcare environments, says Steve Sims, Founder and Chief Design Officer of Behavior Lab at Badgeville. Patient safety and compliance efforts can also benefit from gamification.

With the hand-washing survey, Dolan says checking the box didn’t require an extra app, form or screen to report the compliance. Nurses were used to the idea of reporting their hand-washing anyway. His company’s software was able to integrate with the devices that tracked hand-washing behavior, and displaying the results across platforms made the difference.

Know What Works

Dolan says there are several key factors a gamification effort must provide to be successful:

  • Clear metrics: Establish a goal and decide what participants must do to reach it. Keep it simple.
  • Attainability: Don’t set goals that are hugely difficult to reach.
  • Real-time feedback: When participants can see the progress they’re making, they’re more likely to continue changing their behavior to reach the goal.
  • Visibility: Don’t make people hunt for the real-time feedback; keep it on a screen or device they’re already using.

Sims adds that it’s important to consider whether you’re asking people to do something that’s part of their job. “There are big differences between a mandatory ask and a voluntary ask,” he says. Clear communication with the population whose behavior you’re trying to change can help create buy-in and encourage participation.

Value Drives Motivation

Showing the exercise’s value to the end user is a big part of boosting motivation to participate. With the hand-washing survey, Dolan says because the nurses didn’t have to do any extra work, the value of seeing their reporting progress was obvious.

Healthcare organizations that are considering using gamification to change providers’ behavior and improve patient care also need to consider the distinct user personas they may be dealing with, Sims says. Doctor personas are very different from those of nurses and other healthcare workers, such as lab technicians or salespeople. Motivation is at the heart of effective gamification programs, he says, and understanding the different motivations of people in different roles will help make the program a success.

As healthcare organizations look for ways to improve patient outcomes, they should consider gamification solutions to encourage those provider behaviors that can lead to better patient care. 

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