Health inSite: #PokemonGO and Health

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Intro

I know there are a TON of articles and posts that have surfaced in these 6 days since PokemonGO was released in the United States. The sheer volume of discussion around this just-short-of-a-phenomenon app is certainly surprising in many ways, though another very popular app that just recently was eclipsed in downloads, Tinder, also got a ton of press at the beginning – mostly for the questionable intentions of its users. In this case, you might be able to make a case for the questionable intent of the creators, but I’ll stay away from either of those as the crux of this post and use it as a jumping off point for what I see as valuable technology for the future of health intervention.

What is PokemonGO

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From NianticLabs.com

Loosely based on “Ingress,” PokemonGO is a marriage between Google spin-off Niantic and Nintendo’s Pokemon company. Both companies have, on their own, somewhat of a cult following at this point. While the platform that enabled Pokemon to flourish, Nintendo, has wider reception, both at this point, are not particularly popular on their own. I was actually never a big fan of either. There may have been Pokemon Pogs when I was growing up, but aside from that, I’m not intimately familiar with either. But this combination of geolocation technology and fantasy are not new at all. In fact, if you check out ARGNet, you will find a number of times when games have moved beyond their stated fantasy world and brought them into the real world. Even Cards Against Humanity’s 12 Days of Holiday Bullshit involved very real things IRL (In Real Life) that helped to solve a massive puzzle by contributing members.

But why is it so dang popular!?!

Simply put: it’s fun to play. In Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken and in her TED talk Gaming can make a better world, she covers why gaming can be so much fun and how it can be used for more than just checking out from reality. For those that don’t know what makes a game, there are 4 rules for game-making:

  1. It has to be fun
  2. There are rules
  3. There has to be feedback
  4. It has to be voluntary

And PokemonGO handles these splendidly. If you are able to suspend seriousness and simply play the game, you get the cute characters of Pokemon as if they are in your own world. And then you have to interact with them. There are rules and while you don’t necessarily know them as a newbie, you pick them up rather quickly because there is a lot of feedback as you fail. And voluntary? At over 50Mb to download, significant battery management, dedication of time to the task, and a VERY serious draw on device memory, you’re making a conscious decision to volunteer your time to the goal “gotta catch ’em all.”

How does it work?

Relying on Niantic’s successful incorporation of layering fantasy graphics on Google’s mapping technology, your movement within the real world is translated to the world of PokemonGO. With real world locations acting as stops, real world walking moving you toward Pokemon, and real world feedback as you navigate around obstacles to find these critters, the technology is immersive while being a bit of a “screen suck.” You swipe and click the screen throughout the game to engage different activities (preferably once you’ve stopped moving!) and try to level up through the game.

A word on design

Despite the fact that there are no real instructions on how to use the game, it is incredibly easy to use and intuit as to the next thing you need to do in the game. In the case that you get jammed up, you can always talk to a friend about what they have experienced. And that conversation results in extended conversations about what you’ve seen, done, and enjoyed; even sharing what your highs and lows have been.

Laying the fantasy world on top of the real world allows for the interaction between real and false worlds to transcend the experience of the individual. While it is not necessarily a new technology, it certainly hasn’t been used to this level across a population of people. Look no further than the people walking around parks to see how pervasive this game has become.

Security

Besides the clear security issues that one might expect with an app that logs one’s location, we’ve seen articles that highlight a number of, sometimes false, security concerns that may or not may reveal private details about someone. For example, Instagram’s geotagging feature might reveal that the user is nowhere near home; meanwhile, there have been users that have been vandalized by their Uber driver because they were recently driven to the airport.

While there is only one clear security issue derived by the PokemonGO app, other than the iOS opening that created access to Niantic for the complete control of the users’ Google account (which was quickly remedied within the first five days of operation) PokemonGO does not have the hallmarks of issues, inherent to the app, that many others have had. The one condition to this that I would offer is the use of Lures at Pokestops, which allow for control over the fantasy world for other players as well. This is intended to allow you to attract Pokemon and potentially meet other people, but as you can imagine, that might cause a problem if someone wanted to maliciously use that tech to lure users more than Pokemon. You can’t see other users. You can’t lure those users (unless it’s discovered that incense works beyond the user – which, as of yet, it hasn’t). And until you can hack the database, which, as far as I, know never happened with Niantic, the users are relatively safe.

Health hazard or opportunity

So what are the real opportunities or hazards for this app. Truth is that we’ll likely see more and more stories about the extreme situations like a robbing in O’Fallon, IL that used the technology to target individuals (disproved in this case but could have been a Lure) and a young woman finding a dead body near a stream near her home. But truth is that this has created an engaged population, regardless of age, that is regularly walking through areas that they don’t regularly. And is that bad? We live in a country that is SO LARGE that we don’t inhabit more than 90% of the mass, and yet we have SO many opportunities for exploration for a nation of explorers.

Maybe it is. There are maybe some places that we don’t go and that’s okay. But for the large majority of people playing this game, it seems that it runs through the normal course of daily activity, or just slightly more.

What can it potentially do?

Gamification

Without going too deep into what the values of using gamification are here (feel free to read more here), it is certainly becoming more commonplace to bring this theory into regular technology for deeper interaction with users. The reason that gamification can be such a powerful tool in the capture of behavior change is that it seemingly separates the activity’s goal from the activity’s work by creating an intervening level of excitement with the user. This is done by initiating what is known in psychology as Flow.

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From Gamasutra.com, link below

Flow is the state where the skill meets the difficulty that the user is presented with in a maximally optimal position to engage.

Augmented Reality

One of the best arguments for, and against, augmented reality that I’ve seen is nicely packaged in the form of this short film:

While there are many opportunities that augmented reality potentially brings to the table with regard to the mundane (paying your tab at a restaurant, preparing food, even exercising like PokemonGO has been credited with) there are also potential dangers to these augmentations. With regard to PokemonGO in its current version there’s certainly no actual human interface except through the handheld device. While it can influence behavior by incenting the user to do one thing or another, it cannot override human decisionmaking. Yet.

But let’s set aside the potential for danger for a moment to consider how immersive PokemonGO has become for its users and how another user interface might have a significantly decreased reliance on the “phone” to play the game might actually allow for it to become more of a background activity, rather than what one is actively doing. In PokemonGO, the user is staring at a screen trying to find where the leaves are moving and that’s partly because of the limited amount of time most devices can actively “play” the game. But if, say with a device like Google Glass, you could be hunting Pokemon all day long? What if, rather than having to seek out Pokemon in a thirty minute “hunt,” you were hunting all day? Tracking steps all day to incubate eggs? Regularly checking into PokeStops and learning about those locations?

There are certainly risks, and those need to be mitigated. But there’s definitely a lot more opportunity too.

Teams

When you are strong enough to actually do battle at a gym, you pick one of three teams to join. These have their own internal meanings to the game and once you’ve joined a team, you can rely on those other team members for support in controlling gyms and help with training your Pokemon.

One thing that is currently lacking in this first version of the game is the ability to bring in one’s pre-existing social network. Because you must log into the game with your Gmail account or a Pokemon.com account, the audience is potentially limited when it comes to mining the available social network data that might be available with, say, a Facebook login. Then you could invite your friends to join your team in the search for Pokemon. You could actually provide each other with tactical and strategic support in quests as well as provide emotional and physical support in reaching goals. Our social networks are significant in our health decisions, and forcing users into only having the option of the three team options in the game – which are highly contrived and not very useful on their own, so far as I can tell – there are additional opportunities for increasing the effectiveness of the platform for health behavior generation.

Socio-environmental disturbance

One thing that is for sure: there are a lot of people I’ve watched over the past few days playing this game. Will it last? I’m not sure. But watching two people who are running around a park together while staring at their phone certainly acts as a pattern interrupt for me. I’ve watched as someone stared at their phone and walked around corners, and down streets, trying to engage the PokemonGO world largely oblivious to their surroundings except for what is represented on the screen. And when you see someone doing that, it definitely has a similar impact to the way that we all responded when Bluetooth headsets and wireless earphones became popular for holding mobile phone calls in the public.

Yes, it’s a pattern interrupt. And yes, it was extremely annoying when phone calls made it out into the general public, seemingly creating dialogue that only existed in the speaker’s head. But that has become so normalized now, I can’t imagine there won’t be a possibility of a similar normalization of that activity. And once normal, adoption will likely go up, not down.

Why is this important?

BmsB9w6 - ImgurThese are not the Pokemon you seek

While the PokemonGO craze has blown away the expectations of the game-makers, and frankly any Ingress user is probably also doing the, “I was geocaching before it was cool” thing right now, this does start a discussion about how we can better leverage the technology that is already available to us to change our behaviors in small, although ultimately significant, ways.

Just the beginning…

…but an important one. Critical events like this are rare in helping to shape how we want our world to look. Each of us has the capacity to impact the way that we want to engage with our communities and our technology. What do you want your world to look like? Or, more precisely, what do you want which of your worlds to look like?

To our health,

Ryan Lucas
To stay ahead on topics related to this, follow me on Twitter @dz45tr

Healthcare is not just about the people who work in HealthIT, it’s about everyone…

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Special thanks to the many influences that have contributed, directly or indirectly, to my questions leading into this #HITsm chat: @leonardkish @ochotex @avantgame @gzicherm @connected_book @paullikeme @robertamines @kellymcgonigal @joepine @hankgreen

Intro

I’ll be moderating the #HITsm chat on August 28th at 10am MDT and wanted to put together a couple of thoughts related to the topic before going into the chat. Maybe you’ll find these useful. Also, feel free to join us if you are interested in the topic. The more the merrier! Toward that end, let’s have a discussion about what we, in #HealthIT can do to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of those who are our end-users.

Considerations should include #EHR & #App design from #Payer, #Provider, #Patient, and #Peer per this posting on #4PHealth.

It’s the convergence of all four P’s (Provider, Payer, Patient, and that Patient’s Peers) that will allow for greater healthcare reach. When the Payer and the Provider are able to engage the Patient’s Peers, then true health generation is possible and the benefits of one’s social network can then be fully leveraged.

People:Person Design

We have historically looked at healthcare (and by extension, #HealthIT) as though it exists outside the “natural” world, or as though health is outside the realm of our social experience. Yet, we know that health is not divergent from our health reality or our everyday lives.

Healthy behavior is not dependent on what payment models, medical technology, or other innovations come about in the healthcare debate.  We know that your friend’s friend has a great impact on what you do – and vice versa.

How do we reconverge these two realities knowing that what we do in our daily lives result in healthcare outcomes? Framed differently, how do we leverage the way we make decisions every day in considering how #HealthIT is designed?

Our health is not our own. We are bound to others, near and far, and by each decision and every sharing of those decisions, we birth our health.

#HITsm T1: Knowing that #health is dependent on daily life, how do we design #HealthIT in consideration of the larger, social world?

Cognitive Bias, Iterative Decision-making, Behavioral Economics, Game-Theory

Considering the depth of our knowledge related to cognitive bias, are we considerate of this branch of psychology in design? Knowing what we know about iterative decision-making (that decisions have to be made in sequence, often after new or different information) how do we prepare adaptive #HealthIT that responds to new information as it becomes available, like it does for Human Beings? For details on Cognitive Bias and Decision-making, see here and here. For Game Theory (including iterative decision-making), see here.  

So what does a salutogenic framework look like?  Mindfulness, resilience, focus on daily health-promoting activities that increase our ability to get healthier, rather than fend off illness.  Of course, a fee-for-service model doesn’t bode well with this concept, so unless you’re enrolled in a highly visionary health promotion healthcare system, you’re probably on your own – for now.  

Antonovsky’s explanation of Salutogenesis was well depicted by a river.  His concern with the current model of health (Pathogenesis) is that it’s generally believed that we are healthy from the beginning but that because of environmental / circumstantial events, we become sick.  Antonovsky expressed this as a river, where all healthy people stand on the bank, safe from the raging river’s flow.  Once one stepped into the river – got sick – then something needed to be done.  Salutogenesis, however, sees all people already in the river; but at different distances from the mouth.

There are some obvious benefits to these advances in Health IT, but one of the things that may not be fully clear yet is the application of Watson to understanding more about human behavior. While Watson can absolutely tell a clinician the likelihood of a set of symptoms’ association with a given disease, I’ll bet Watson can’t tell you how the patients’ family impacts their overall wellbeing through behavior reinforcement. If Watson knew who the patients’ workout buddy was, Watson might be able to help identify with a high confidence whether that workout buddy was a statistically-sound partner in the overall health management of the patient. Further, Watson would be able to weigh in on the evaluation of treatment adherence based on real-time data pouring into the health record for the given individual.  This is the game state evaluation of the health of the individual in a real and meaningful way.  With this, a total and complete understanding of the long-term treatment of chronic conditions (and even more important to the salutogenic framework that I’ve discussed previously in this blog series, total health production) through the understanding of actual human behavior devoid of the clinical separation from reality is the “social human” version of epigenetics that will become more useful in the coming years.  This is where the data comes to life.

#HITsm T2: How do we achieve #patientengagement over time considering that a one-off solution can’t fix #health?

Gamification

A recent post mentioned that Gamification is failing due to a lack of accurately applying the concepts of gamification; in short, supplanting “badges” for increasing levels of difficulty appropriately. If Gamification is going to solve the #engagement problem, why can’t we quite figure this out? Gamification in health, generally, see here.

Whether we admit it or not, it is the promise of the potential emotional pay-off that lures us into working ridiculous hours already. But unlike gaming environments where we are totally immersed, our modern work environments seem contorted — almost criminally — to keep us from feeling blissfully productive. And once we give up hope that epic wins are possible, our careers turn into drudgery.

It takes more than a website to do this – including focus on using the resources available to a company’s natural habitat, the worksite, to engage employees during the 40 hour work week, and more, by creating a story.  As described in the burgeoning world of Alternate Reality Games and Transmedia Storytelling, the ability to tell a cooperative narrative – on and offline – among those with which you work is an opportunity to actively create health, the benchmark of Salutogenesis.  When you have many platforms for engaging in this storytelling, you increase the modes of access to actively engage all employees where they are, rather than forcing them into a platform that they may not be comfortable with, or is not ideal for their way of engaging in their health generating behaviors.

 #HITsm T3: What game mechanics in #HealthIT are currently being used appropriately? Which are not?

Integration with the larger #healthIT world

Specifically looking at the #payer and #provider perspective, how can we ensure that the same #psych principles are being used to ensure adoption of #HealthIT throughout the Healthcare continuum? When we consider #wearables and #IoT, what do we focus on in terms of integration versus simple cataloging?

#HITsm T4: What should be made usable by #enterprise #healthIT to ensure the #Human element does not get lost?

Free-for-all on Design

#HITsm T5: What design considerations have you seen that work well in #HealthIT / #mHealth?

In review:

#HITsm T1: Knowing that #health is dependent on daily life, how do we design #HealthIT in consideration of the larger, social world?

#HITsm T2: How do we achieve #patientengagement over time considering that a one-off solution can’t fix #health?

#HITsm T3: What game mechanics in #HealthIT are currently being used appropriately? Which are not?

#HITsm T4: What should be made usable by #enterprise #healthIT to ensure the #Human element does not get lost?

#HITsm T5: What design considerations have you seen that work well in #HealthIT / #mHealth?

To our health,

Ryan Lucas
Manager, Engagement & Development

Health inSite: Gamification of Health

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In the 10th installment of Health inSite, we take a look at strategies of an up-and-coming way of engaging health through Gamification.  Gamification has recently taken to the health world via a veritable windfall of funding coming through venture capital firms to try to create platforms that encourage and incent people to take on everyday health activities.  While most of these have been fitness related applications and websites so far, a good number are starting to look at emotional resiliency, pro-social behavior, and more.  If you’ve not yet read Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken, or seen her TED Talk, I highly suggest them.  McGonigal suggests that there is value in creating unnecessary obstacles for people to achieve more and feel the power of their own success by creating fiero moments – moments of intense pride in one’s triumph over adversity.  These obstacles enrich our lives and add value to our, oftentimes, mundane daily activities.  As McGonigal mentions in her book, if the point of golf is to put the ball in the hole, why don’t we just pick up the ball and walk it over to drop it in the hole.  Yet, we spend a lot of time playing the game and add obstacles to make it more challenging.  It creates motivation to achieve for the sake of achievement, rather than the end goal.  This is the point of a game and it has a big role to play in the future of health.

There are a number of groups starting to use the concepts of gamification to encourage health promoting activities.  And, there is a lot of hoopla being created around using technology platforms to make gaming a part of employers’ health strategies, with 60% of employers planning to add gamified health strategies in 2013.  However, most of these groups are only using small pieces of the total package that gamification, and other psychological research, includes; and sometimes, are even using pieces that are inappropriate, such as financial incentives and gimmicks, which directly undermine the value of the game itself.  But maybe there are better opportunities to correctly use the concepts of gamification, as well as the many other pieces of psychological research that we’ve covered in Health inSite, to create a total population health strategy at work; the first wellbeing program that actually pushes employees to challenge themselves, and each other, to become more healthy, rather than less ill.  In fact, MINES is doing just that.

It takes more than a website to do this – including focus on using the resources available to a company’s natural habitat, the worksite, to engage employees during the 40 hour work week, and more, by creating a story.  As described in the burgeoning world of Alternate Reality Games and Transmedia Storytelling, the ability to tell a cooperative narrative – on and offline – among those with which you work is an opportunity to actively create health, the benchmark of Salutogenesis.  When you have many platforms for engaging in this storytelling, you increase the modes of access to actively engage all employees where they are, rather than forcing them into a platform that they may not be comfortable with, or is not ideal for their way of engaging in their health generating behaviors.  This is done by asking for participation in the developing story that is experienced, rather than simply viewed.  Imagine, rather than passively hearing or reading what someone needs to do to fight diabetes, or other chronic health condition, or even simply drop a couple of pounds, each person can create opportunities for their fellow employees to actively and interactively challenge one another in the course of an unfolding story.  This makes health promotion participatory and engaging.

We’re focused on creating the health generating plan of the future and want to share it with you.  In the meantime, maybe you’re already starting to embark on this grand adventure in your own ways.  What do you do at work that helps make people healthier?

To our health,

Ryan Lucas
Marketing