Medicine and Gaming: The Surprising Link You (Probably) Don't Know About

The worlds of medicine and gaming aren't as far apart as you might think.

Feb 4, 2014 at 4:18PM

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that consumers play games to be entertained. Whether it's on a console, mobile device, or laptop, games are meant to be fun, interactive, and challenging. It's as simple as that.

Or is it?

You may be surprised to find that gaming also has applications in the world of medicine. For instance, drugmakers Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) are developing games that serve as educational tools for patients, and also help with patient compliance.

To shed more light on this emerging trend, I recently spoke with Michael Fergusson, CEO of Ayogo Health, at the mHealth Summit near Washington, D.C. In the following interview, Michael explains how games can be used by drugmakers to produce better outcomes for patients. Michael also discusses two new games his company helped create for Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Sanofi (NYSE:SNY).

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Michael Fergusson: Ayogo builds patient-facing applications that use game-play mechanics and social patterning effects to improve patient engagement.

Max Macaluso: So, is this an emerging trend right now in health care, or has this been around for a while?

Fergusson: Well, it's kind of a new thing to effectively apply game mechanics to health-care applications. You know, games and play are an ancient human behavior, so it's something that human beings have always done. And health care has typically done a bad job of developing applications that human beings use.

Macaluso: So, can you tell us a little bit about your business model and who your clients are?

Fergusson: Sure. We work with a variety of customers-payers, providers, and pharmaceutical companies-to help deploy applications that will improve patient adherence. So, some of our customers in the pharma space, for example, are Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Sanofi (NYSE:SNY). We work with Boehringer Ingelheim, as well, and other companies like that.

Macaluso: Can you talk a little bit about the project you did with Merck?

Fergusson: Sure. We're very excited about this particular project. So, we work with the innovation group at Merck (NYSE:MRK), fabulous people to work with. Our application, that we're piloting right now, is called "Type 2 Travelers." It's for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics, to help them complete a roughly 90 day program of education and behavior change to help them manage their disease more effectively, using a combination of narrative, progressive mastery, in terms of game mechanics, as well as social engagement between patients.

Macaluso: And for Sanofi (NYSE:SNY), what was the project there?

Fergusson: Well, Sanofi we're working with mostly in Europe, building an application designed to help newly diagnosed children who have type 1 diabetes engage with their regime of testing their blood sugar and reporting it. Because, as you may know, it's a very challenging disease to manage for a small child. They have to prick their finger, have to take their blood, and there's a lot of fear about amputations and, you know, it's very frightening for a child. So we're building an application that's a little bit more playful, a little bit more fun, to help them get more engaged, get a sense of satisfaction, and feel some mastery over their new condition.

Max Macaluso, Ph.D., and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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