Stop making healthy choices a chore

3 examples of healthcare gamification

When gamification first became a buzz word in healthcare marketing, all I could think about was the Dole 5-A-Day Adventures CD-ROM that came bundled with my family’s Mac in the mid 90s. It was an educational computer game that taught kids about the food pyramid and the importance of eating five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Of course, I didn’t realize its true purpose at the time, but I enjoyed creating meals in the “Salad Factory” and then measuring the calories and fat based on what dressing I used. Can I honestly say that I ate more vegetables after playing this game? Well, let’s just say I probably gave more broccoli to my dog under the table than I actually ate, but I don’t think that’s a reason to give up on gamification. After all, I still remember that romaine lettuce is a better choice than iceberg.


Rather than telling people that they should exercise or eat broccoli (we all know), gamification gives healthy choices a purpose and more immediate gratification. The idea of integrating gamification into the marketing plan for your hospital or physician group may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be complex to be effective. You just need to tap into what motivates patients and find the most convenient ways to reach them. For inspiration, here are three different types of gamification that can help engage patients of all ages.

  • CDPHP Life Points: CDPHP created an online rewards program for members 19 and older called Life Points. Through Life Points, members are able to create an online profile, take a personal health assessment, and then log points for every healthy choice they make. For example, members can earn points for joining a gym, getting an annual physical, logging the number of steps they take, or joining an adult intramural sports team. Once points have accumulated, members can cash them in for up to $365 a year in gift cards for shopping, travel, dining, or entertainment.
  • Zombies, RUN! Although the prospect of a zombie apocalypse is somewhat terrifying, this app uses it as motivation to keep running. In this audio app, runners are in a game trying to rebuild civilization during a zombie invasion and receive commands through their headphones to collect supplies and outrun zombies. Good for use outside or on the treadmill, it can make the mundane task of running exciting again. The app also records your distance, time, pace and calories burned during each mission of the game.
  • iPad: Many hospitals have started using iPads in waiting rooms to entertain and calm patients, especially children before surgery. This is a nice outlet for apps that teach patients more about your hospital, but it’s also a great opportunity to teach children about healthy choices through educational games. Although it looks like 5-A-Day Adventures is a thing of the past, now there is Dole SuperKids, which features games and comics related to nutrition. Take a tour around their site for inspiration to create your own games and activities for pediatric patients.

Related reading:

Does gamification belong in hospital marketing?
Personal wellness is all fun and games