Pokemon Go, the smartphone game, has taken the world by storm. The game has been successfully capturing user interest and engagement due to the fact that it combines the real world with gamification. Augmented reality at their fingertips has made people literally fall head over heel for this game. Apart from the obvious adverse effects due to indulgence, there are a lot of insights that can be adopted by the health industry.
Gamification has been well-accepted among the fitness enthusiasts, as proven by the range of health apps. The next step would be towards the prevention and management of chronic conditions, vaccination and adding that extra layer of augmented reality to the fitness apps. Today, it is possible to track one’s fitness regimen, consumption, medication and lifestyle through existing apps. People are also increasingly sharing their achievements on social media – though annoying to a few, the mind-set of instant gratification is probably helping many achieve personal targets.
Take the concept of Pokemon Go – you create an avatar for yourselves in the virtual world and then based on your interests, browsing behavior, lifestyle, preferences, leveraging the phone’s hardware assets like the camera and frequently visited locations you have an engaging augmented reality experience. There are endless opportunities that can make lives of healthcare workers, physicians and surgeons easier in terms of skill training and patient follow-up. But, in this article, the focus is on the patient and care giver. Some areas of applications that combine augmented reality and gamification and can benefit patients and caregivers are:
Current wearables and other apps do help track and share fitness. But, engagement is a challenge considering that most of the data – apart from those which a wearable device can track – are manually entered. This leads to user-fatigue due to the repeated nature of the activity. Here is where augmented reality can play a major role.
For example, point your smartphone camera at the food you are about to eat to understand if it is the right choice for consumption based on your personal fitness targets. If yes, what is the ideal consumption behavior? Based on your profession, are you getting the right kind of exercise – are you on the wheel for a longer time than needed or at your desk way too long for your own comfort? How good it would be if you could be reminded that it is time for that protein shake from the store at a walking distance from where you are right now. Based on your movement, are you visiting a place that serves junk food more often than the other place that serves healthier options? Is there a possibility for the local business owners that you are not aware of to draw your attention by throwing alerts when you are in their vicinity?
Chronic disease management
The non-communicable disease burden is creating a huge loss to personal, employer and national finances. Augmented reality brings the potential to make the behavior change needed to keep yourselves healthy and meet personal health targets a fun activity.
It is obvious that there are immense opportunities to make the above behavior change needed for managing a non-communicable disease more fun that it is right now. Imagine an application that combines awareness messages, helps one set short term and long term targets, helps develop a customized plan, helps visualize with an avatar, track lifestyle, medication adherence, consumption, diagnostics, helps being rewarded and share success with people who matter. Also, imagine being able to use the smartphone camera to track the adherence to medication and notify the placing order for replacement of medications, or the ability to understand and transmit data from self-monitoring tests to the physician. All these – at the comfort of your home or visits based on your physical condition.
Though this is one aspect that most people would not be comfortable doing, the biggest opportunity lies amongst parents struggling with children who have special needs. Right now, opportunities are huge in various areas starting with vaccination reminders to cognitive development to participating in the child’s learning and holistic development. The biggest challenge for a parent with a child that needs special attention is keeping his/her personal motivation high at all times. Augmented reality and sharing could help connect the parent, child, healthcare professional, trainers and educationists – a concentrated effort to make life easier for the child.
Again, technology should be an enabler to make things easier and better for human life. The augmented reality created by merging the real world of patients and care givers with gamification could be the next disruption in the healthcare domain. As mentioned before, this is an era of instant gratification and products or solutions cannot keep a user engaged for long. The need is to deliver an experience that the user gets hooked on to.
Add the layer of real world data that can be generated from these applications, and it opens numerous engagement opportunities for the various stakeholders in the health domain. The possibilities for engagement for fitness centers, laboratories, pharmacies, hospital chains, retailers and other businesses are left to your imagination here, but it goes without saying that the opportunities are immense.