Is gamification the way forward for precision health?

Singapore claims to have achieved a level of public engagement which is “unheard of by most health apps” through the use of small incentives, such as earning points more usually found in electronic gaming. Over in Europe, however, it is a different story, with some countries having to overcome basic issues of trust before people will even consider getting involved.

The panel on the ‘Entering a New Era for Data Driven and Precision Health’ session consisted of Zee Yoong Kang, CEO of the Health Promotion Board Singapore, Professor Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director of Public Health England, and Regional Director of Public Health for NHS London, UK, and Dr Janne Cadamuro, Laboratory physician, University Hospital Salzburg, Paracelsus Medical University, Austria, with Dr Charles Alessi, Chief Clinical Officer, HIMSS moderating the discussion.


Precision health integrates health insights and social determinants, shifting the focus away from acute to preventive healthcare. If there is greater public engagement with health-improving behaviours and tailored interventions, clinical and financial outcomes may improve.


“It’s more like a game, right, it’s the same as gamification. They get a kick out of winning the points and a big chunk of people don’t even bother to convert these points into the vouchers. But it’s the game that’s so engaging and we find that the people, for example, on the Apple program, check their app one and two times a day, just to update and sync it, which is a level of engagement that is unheard of for most health apps,” said Yoong Kang.

He launched a project in Singapore a year ago with Apple, using the Apple watch as a platform, to find out how to motivate people with small incentives to engage with a range of health behaviours. He believes gamification works when it is relevant to people’s real lives and interventions are honed to the specific behaviours and wants of the individuals.

According to Prof Kevin Fenton, the NHS in England is harnessing technology for preventative healthcare too: “In a digital environment, I think, we are now poised to use a range of tools, from environmental sensors, to apps, to the quantified self, looking at how we use readily available information more intelligently to help us improve health.”

In Austria, Dr Janne Cadamuro is currently trying to integrate knowledge and laboratory data into clinically actionable information because traditional methods have led to diagnostic errors and potential patient harm, with unnecessary primary and secondary costs.

He also thinks there should be more emphasis on preventive healthcare: “If we could stop funding sickness and start funding health instead, I think that would solve a lot of problems…I think you have to motivate people, as you see now in people who don’t believe in COVID, you cannot convince them with facts, so you have to motivate them in other ways…If they have a healthy life, they pay less insurance and vice versa.”

Fenton said there were still issues around trust and technology: “Yes, this is an exciting frontier for us. Yes, it can do wonderful things for clinical pathways, promoting population health, but at the core of what we need to do is to bring people along with us, to build that trust and to demonstrate in very simple and practical ways how these new approaches can actually improve our lives.” 

Access this session ‘Entering a New Era for Data Driven and Precision Health’ ‘On Demand’ from #HIMSS21Europe

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